Athletics: John has chance to shine

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The Independent Online
LINFORD CHRISTIE'S withdrawal through injury may have reduced this weekend's Amateur Athletic Association indoor championships in Birmingham as a spectacle, but it has presented one of Britain's best young sprinters with a chance to shine in his own right.

At 21, Jason John falls in between the 32-year-old Christie and the quartet who earned widespread admiration for winning the world junior sprint relay title last September, one of whom - 19-year-old Darren Campbell - has been generating much publicity as the man most likely to follow where Britain's Olympic champion has led.

As if that were not enough, John has generally had to give best to an exact contemporary, albeit one who now stands on the brink of an enforced four-year absence from the sport - Jason Livingston.

'My career has always been in the shadows, to be honest,' John said. 'I'm aware of it, but I'm not worried about it because I'm only 21 and I've got a long way to go.'

The immediate destination of a man who reached last year's European indoor championships 60 metres final - an event won by Livingston - is next month's world indoor championships in Toronto. John, who is running both the 60 and the 200m this weekend, has not ruled out doubling up in Canada.

He began the year with a month's training in New Zealand, where he beat some useful US sprinters. Despite contracting flu almost as soon as he returned to these shores, his form has returned swiftly, and last week's showing at the TSB Challenge, where he came within 0.01sec of the US world indoor record-holder, Andre Cason, has given him encouragement.

His time of 6.66, 0.05 slower than his best, is the fastest achieved by a Briton this year, and if he can reproduce or better that in today's 60m event he could give a rare beating to two hurdlers taking time out from their specialist event, Colin Jackson and the Olympic champion Mark McKoy.

The 60m also offers the intriguing presence of Jonathan Edwards, the triple jumper who set an all-comers' record of 17.16m at Birmingham last Saturday.

Steve Smith's decision not to compete in the high jump gives Dalton Grant and Brendan Reilly an opportunity to take a higher profile. And in the women's events, Phylis Smith, the Olympic 400m finalist, sharpens up with a run over 60m, while Britain's previous No 1 in the 400m, Linda Keough, returns after injury over 800m.