Athletics: Obstinate McColgan prepared for any obstacles: Scotland's world women's 10,000 metres champion is looking for revenge in tomorrow's world cross-country championships in Spain

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The Independent Online
IN contrast to last year's hilly world cross-country championship course in Boston, the looping grass circuit on which the 1993 title will be disputed tomorrow at Amorebieta in Spain contains only artificial obstacles. The rivalries involved, however, will be intensely real.

Britain's best chance of an individual medal, in a women's race that includes all the strongest potential contenders, rests with Liz McColgan - as indeed it appeared to do last year, when the Scottish world 10,000 metres champion arrived full of confidence about her prospects of improving on the silver medal she had won in 1987, only to finish down the field.

The winner then, for the third successive time, was Lynn Jennings, of the United States, who had clearly been nettled by McColgan's approach and made no secret of the satisfaction she gained in beating her.

'Last year it hurt my ego to finish 41st,' McColgan said. 'But I was ill at the time so I know why it happened.'

The illness to which McColgan refers stemmed from an anaemic condition which was only diagnosed after her subsequent disappointment at the Olympics; her victory in the world half marathon championships last September indicated that she was back to her customary level of fitness.

Unlike last year, when her cross-country training was done largely on a treadmill in her home, McColgan has been running on grass in preparation. But her sharpness over 6,000m tomorrow will be compromised by the fact that she is hard in training for next month's London Marathon, which she is contracted to run for the next three years in a deal thought to be worth around pounds 500,000. That should make it even more likely that the Scot will attempt to make a long, hard race of it in Spain. 'I wouldn't be going if I didn't think that I stood a good chance,' she said. 'I want to prove a point or two this time.'

Her chance has perhaps been improved by Jennings's own health problems. The American underwent an emergency operation to remove her appendix at a hospital in Durham, where she had been due to run a World Cross Challenge race on 2 January. Since then, however, she has won a bronze medal behind Yvonne Murray in the world indoor 3,000m, and she says she is more motivated now than she was in Boston.

The South African pair of Elana Meyer and Zola Pieterse - who as Zola Budd won the title twice for Britain in 1985 and 1986 - will also have a strong influence on the race.

Meyer has only left the warmth of her home city of Cape Town once this season, finishing third in the Durham race, behind Derartu Tulu, the Ethiopian who beat her to the gold medal in the Olympic 10,000m final. But her form has given her reason to suppose that she can make an impact on her return to the cross-country circuit.

Nevertheless Tulu, who dropped out of last year's championships with a leg injury but won the silver in Antwerp the year before, goes into the event as the favourite. As for the team title, the Ethiopians will be hard pressed to beat Kenya. Bud Baldaro, Britain's coach, believes that the women's team - McColgan, world junior champion Paula Radcliffe, Andrea Whitcombe, Alison Wyeth, Vikki McPherson and Suzanne Rigg - has a chance of a medal.

The men's chances of emulating the team bronze they won in Boston have been effectively ruined by the withdrawal of Richard Nerurkar and Dave Lewis earlier this week with viral complaints.

The Kenyan men, who have won a record seven successive titles, will seek an eighth with a team which includes William Sigei, winner of his national trial, and Moses Tanui, the world 10,000m champion, but which does not include the reigning champion and five-times winner John Ngugi, who is suspended by his federation for failing to submit to a drug test last month.

Their claim to the individual title will be disputed fiercely by Fita Bayesa of Ethiopia, last year's bronze medallist, and Khalid Skah of Morocco, the 1990 and 1991 champion who has engaged in more or less literal running battles with the Kenyans in the last few years.

Having apparently resolved his financial dispute with his home federation, over which he had threatened to boycott Amorebieta, Skah is out to redress the balance after the rough treatment he felt he was given by the Kenyans in Boston.