Athletics: Made for Japan: Four Britons hoping to be the best at the world indoor championships

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The Independent Online

Like Todd Bennett before him, the short-striding power-packed Welshman is custom-built for running 400m indoors. The world title would appear to be his for the taking but a similar appearance proved to be deceptive two years ago. The clear favourite after breaking Bennett's British record with 45.39sec, Baulch was beaten to the gold by Sunday Bada of Nigeria. Over-racing was his downfall, but this time he is fresh from three weeks of training in Melbourne. He is favourite again, leading the world rankings with 45.60sec.


From a mark of 14.23m in the national championships four weeks ago, the triple jumping golden girl of last year's European indoor championships has improved to 14.81m. If she takes another step forward, she could get close to the world indoor record she set in Valencia 12 months ago, 15.16m. The line between success and failure in triple jumping can, however, be despairingly thin. And Hansen, who needed six jumps to get it right in Lievin a week ago, will be given little room for error by her Czech rival, Sarka Kasparkova.


The margin between victory and defeat will probably be even smaller in the men's 60m hurdles. A mere 0.02sec covers the four at the top of the world rankings. Behind Falk Balzer, who leads with 7.41sec, Jackson and Americans Tony Dees and Duane Ross have all clocked 7.43sec. None will have a greater hunger than Jackson. The Olympic and world indoor titles are the only two prizes that have eluded the 31-year-old. Two years ago he finished 0.01 sec behind the Cuban Anier Garcia. It is likely to be just as close again.


Whatever his fate in Japan, the Liverpudlian Fosbury Flopper will be no failure. He deserves a gold just for making the team eight months after badly injuring his neck in a training accident. Smith spent 10 days in a neck brace in the Royal Liverpool Hospital in July but returned to competition in Germany two weeks ago. Having cleared 2.27m, the Olympic bronze medallist is only ranked joint 16th in the world. "I'm still a bit rusty," he said. "But I know I'm in great shape. I'm only a fraction away from 2.35 shape."