ATHLETICS Jarrett's best is not fast enough



reports from Barcelona

Tony Jarrett doubled Britain's medal tally at the World Indoor Championships here last night in winning a bronze in the 60 metres hurdles. It has to be said that there have been more overjoyed bronze medallists.

With Colin Jackson for once not in contention, the major championship gold medal which has always eluded Jarrett seemed within his grasp. But it proved beyond him again as Allen Johnson won in 7.38sec, with his United States colleague Courtney Hawkins second in 7.41.

Jarrett ran a personal best of 7.42, but as he sat glumly unlacing his shoes a conversation with Mark McKoy, who placed fourth, said everything about the way he viewed the performance.

"What was your time?" McKoy asked.

"7.42," replied Jarrett.

"So you improved your best time."

"Yeah, but I got beat," said Jarrett.

He had been edgy before the racing, standing up from his blocks once when a noise in the crowd distracted him, and clipping the first hurdle did not help his chances. "I know personally that I can run faster than I did today," he said. "I can run 7.38, 7.37." But did a bronze medal not constitute some satisfaction? "I've got plenty of bronze medals and silvers at home," he said with a wide, sad smile.

Britain's other medal contenders on the day, John Mayock and Jacqui Agyepong, finished fifth in the 3,000 metres and the 60m hurdles, respectively.

Britain's strongest chance of a gold medal at these championships disappeared back at Heathrow on Saturday afternoon, with John Regis deciding not to risk a recently recovered hamstring in the 200m final on tight bends.

Although Regis and Jarrett's training partner, Darren Braithwaite, provided a silver in the 60m on Friday, the overall British impact on these championships was uncomfortably summed up in the final event.

The 400m relay, in recent years a source of British pride and glory, yielded only fourth place - out of four entrants. It was a young team, and at least one member, Mark Hylton, ran despite being clearly still affected by the cold which ruined his individual performance. It was nevertheless a dispiriting end to the championships. In terms of medals, Britain has not done worse at a major championships since 1987. Britain finished 21st in the medal table, behind Kazakhstan and Bermuda.

Agyepong, who had reduced her British 60m hurdles record to 8.02sec in reaching the final, improved by 0.01sec but had to settle for fifth place behind the Cuban winner, Aliuska Lopez, who recorded 7.92sec.

Agyepong, who was once considered unreliable as a top-level competitor, was in touch with Lopez, on her right, for most of the race. "It was a good run," she said. "But I'm disappointed because it was so close."

Her brother, Francis, also had a personal best on the night, placing seventh in the triple jump with 16.74m.

Irina Privalova, Russia's world 60m record holder, underlined her claim to being the world's best all-round woman sprinter by taking the 400m title in 50.23sec, the fourth fastest of all time and the fastest in over a decade.

Although she had never raced an indoor 400 before this weekend, and only two outdoors, Privalova left the world indoor and outdoor champions, Sandie Richards and Jearl Miles, far behind.

She may keep the Mercedes she won at the 1993 World Championships in her garage, preferring a less ostentatious Lada, but she is not similarly inhibited on the track.

Alex Kruger, punishing himself in the 1000m, the final event of the heptathlon, improved his own British record from 5,888 to 5,978 points in finishing fifth.

There may not have been any British gold medallists but the national anthem still got played - on behalf of Bermuda, the colony whose flag incorporates the Union Jack and whose triple jumper Brian Wellman won in 17.72m, the third best of all time. All very nice for Bermuda; not quite the same thing as far as Britain was concerned.

n A life ban on 20-year-old Ulrike Heidelmann, a German female discus thrower, has been lifted by the International Amateur Athletic Federation because of an error by one of its laboratories, a decision which may have implications for the controversial Diane Modahl case. The Rome laboratory had doubts about her positive test for high levels of the male hormone testosterone.