Athletics: McColgan is back on the right track: Hugh Jones on the Scot who has the Chinese in her sights as she prepares for the 1994 London Marathon

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The Independent Online
LIZ McCOLGAN'S arch rival once called her 'the most brash, confident person I have ever met in my life.' That was after she had run the fastest debut marathon ever, preceded by her win in the 1991 World Championships 10,000 metres with a devastating solo run. If anyone was justified in being confident, McColgan was. With realistic chances she talked of winning the World Cross-Country Championships and running a world best for the marathon.

After missing out on the first ambition, she was poised for the second in this year's London Marathon. Her rival, Lisa Ondieki, was alongside her. But McColgan faltered, finishing third in her slowest time to date. A month later she was sidelined with injury and only three weeks ago could she begin to train normally again.

Speaking yesterday as she started preparations for the 1994 NutraSweet London Marathon, her confidence remained undimmed despite the problems of the last seven months. It was in fact much longer than that. 'I'd had it for going on a couple of years, really,' she said of the lower back problem which she believes is now finally behind her. 'I overdid my marathon training. It caused an imbalance and tightness in the hamstrings. I couldn't sprint because of it.'

It has been the longest break in McColgan's career. 'I think that (the break) is really going to benefit me in the long run.' And by her own assessment, the self-confidence remains undimmed. 'What has happened has rekindled enthusiasm for what I set out to do in the first place. I'm very confident that I'm going to get back to running better than I was before.'

She will need to do that, to keep abreast of the competition. While McColgan was off the circuit, Chinese women comprehensively rewrote the record books in endurance running. McColgan's successor as 10,000m world champion is Wang Junxia. She later improved Ingrid Kristiansen's seven-year-old 10,000m world record by 42 seconds. McColgan had previously been closest to what she agrees was certainly not a 'soft' record, and she now has to close an 85- second gap. 'It doesn't bother me', McColgan bravely asserted. 'It gives me the opportunity to run really fast, by hanging on in there. I'm not daunted at all by the possibility of racing against them.'

McColgan was speaking of the track, where she feels her main ambitions still lie. Next season, she anticipates competing in the European Championships and the Commonwealth Games, as well as wanting to set fast times at 5,000 and 10,000m in July or August. Her Chinese rivals will probably not meet her on the track until 1995. Before that though, they may appear in next year's NutraSweet London Marathon, depending on the response of the Chinese Athletic Federation to their outstanding invitation.

(Photograph omitted)