Athletics: Morceli sights world record

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The Independent Online
A YEAR after he marked the first major meeting at Birmingham's national indoor arena, Noureddine Morceli, the world champion and world record holder over 1,500 metres, is seeking a repeat performance.

But while the 1,000m record which he broke there last time round was relatively vulnerable - his time of 2min 15.26sec took 1.14sec off the previous mark by Rob Druppers - his target today in the TSB Challenge is the mile record of 3min 49.78sec. The mark which Ireland's Eamonn Coghlan achieved has stood for 10 years, and Morceli will need his pacemaker, Britain's Ikem Billy, to reproduce the precision running which made his task so clear last year.

Four other world records could be under pressure from what the meeting promoter, Andy Norman, describes as the finest field he has put together in 20 years. In the 60m hurdles, Colin Jackson will be chasing Greg Foster's six-year-old mark of 7.36sec, having run 7.42 in Germany last week and beating the Olympic champion, Mark McKoy, in the process. McKoy is in the field, along with the pair who took silver and bronze behind him, Tony Dees and Jack Pierce.

Other events where world marks may be threatened include the women's 60m, where Merlene Ottey seeks to reclaim her record from Irina Privalova, of Russia, who ran 6.92sec just over a week ago; the women's 2,000m, featuring Yvonne Murray, and the men's 200m, where the Olympic silver medallist, Frankie Fredericks, has been in the kind of form to challenge Bruno Marie-Rose's 20.36.

A strong field for the mile includes Mohammed Suleiman, the Olympic bronze medallist, John Mayock, Britain's European indoor 3,000m silver medallist and Matthew Yates, who last year followed Morceli home inside Seb Coe's nine-year-old United Kingdom record, in 2.17.86.

'I'm sure the record is not going to be easy,' Morceli said. 'But I'm in shape. This is the first time I have given a lot of importance to the indoor season.' Whenever the 22-year-old Algerian has found his attitude wavering in training, he admits that last year's painful Olympic experience, when his prospects were ruined by problems with his sciatic nerve and hip, has been a useful source of motivation.

'I only had three weeks of clear training before the Olympics, which wasn't enough,' he said. But the finer details failed to register on the bulk of an Algerian public which regards Morceli, in his own words, as 'the No 1 sportsman.' Most people in my country were very surprised and disappointed after Barcelona,' he said. 'I read in the paper - 'Now we need for him to break the world record'.'

A head-to-head between Linford Christie and Carl Lewis will probably have to take place in Europe after HBO, the cable television company, failed to reach agreement to stage the race in the United States, in May, Joe Douglas, Lewis' business manager, said yesterday.

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