Athletics: Rawlinson leaps up world order

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THE WELTKLASSE meeting, famed down the years for bringing the best out of those taking part, did the trick again yesterday for a 27- year-old Yorkshireman who went from nowhere to somewhere in the space of just one run.

It also inspired Paula Radcliffe to better Zolo Budd's 14-year-old British 3,000 metres record as she finished third behind Romania's Gabriella Szabo in 8min 27.40sec to take 1.3sec off the former South African's mark and more than four seconds off her own personal best.

In winning the 400m hurdles B race here in a time of 48.14sec, Chris Rawlinson established himself as a force to be reckoned with in the International Amateur Athletic Federation World Championship later this month. His time put him third in the 1999 world list and also made him the fastest Briton of all time behind Kriss Akabusi, who set the British record of 47.82sec in winning Olympic bronze in 1992, and David Hemery, who took Olympic gold in 1968 in what was then a world record of 48.12.

"I thought I might make the semi-finals in Seville, but now the final's on the cards," Rawlinson said brushing back his quiff of peroxide blond hair. "I don't want to be looked on as a favourite because I'll only put pressure on myself. But there's a lot more in the tank. I'm not fatigued at all. Now I'm looking at Kriss Akabusi's record."

Rawlinson, who has just completed a degree in sports science at Leicester University, has made his breakthrough after two seasons in which his progress has been halted by a stress fracture and then a hernia. His time was 0.01sec faster than Angelo Taylor recorded in winning last night's A race. Before the season began, the Yorkshireman's best was 49.69, which he reduced to 48.88 in finishing sixth at the recent World Student Games. Yesterday marked another giant stride forwards for the former Royal Marine, who once competed in the Gladiators TV show. He began this season only 14th on the British list.

But he bears a tangible sign of the difficulties he has experienced in his career. On his chest he carries a Japanese pictogram of the word courage - which he had tattooed in the aftermath of his narrow failure to win a place at the 1996 Olympics. "I had wanted to put Olympic rings around my arm, and I was so disappointed afterwards I wanted something to remind me of my ambition," said Rawlinson, who lives only three streets away from Britain's former Olympic 1500 meters silver medallist Peter Elliott.

"Peter has been brilliant to me throughout my career," Rawlinson said. "He gave me a pair of spikes when I was a kid."

Radcliffe ran a typically committed race, taking the lead with two laps remaining and, crucially, staying in touch with Szabo and Morocco's Zahra Ouaziz as they came past her at the bell. Portugal's Olympic champion Fernanda Reberio who will be one of Radcliffe's main rivals in the World Championship 10,000 metres later this month, finished 25 metres adrift.

"I have never felt more competitive over the last 200 metres," Radcliffe said. "I'm really pleased. This could not have been a better preparation for the World Championship. I'm really looking forward to it."

Szabo remains in with a chance of sharing the US$1m jackpot on offer to those athletes remaining unbeaten through all seven Golden League events. With only two meetings remaining, she is in the hunt with Bernard Barmasi of Kenya, who won the steeplechase in 8:05.16sec, Wilson Kipketer, who finished ahead in the 800m in 1:33.01 and Marion Jones, victorious over 200m in 22.10.

Another athlete whom Elliott has guided in former times, John Mayock, finished second in the 1500m B race in 3:34.1.

Ashia Hansen, one of the relatively few British competitors here, could only finish sixth in the triple jump with 14.34m, behind the 1999 world leader, Paraskevi Tsiamiti, of Greece, who won with 14.75m.

Maurice Greene won the 100m in the comparatively slow time of 9.99sec. But Greene's task of winning the 100 and 200m double at the World Championships became appreciably easier yesterday as his friend and training partner Ato Boldon announced a premature end to his season because of a hamstring injury.

Boldon, who is the defending world 200m champion, injured himself while running at the Paris Golden League meeting last month, and exacerbated the problem while competing in a 4x100m relay during Saturday's CGU British Grand Prix at Crystal Palace. "The relay made things worse," the Trinidadian said. "My season is over. There is no way I can get fit for Seville because my right hamstring has not healed."

It is frustrating timing for Boldon, who is one of the very few competitors who looked capable of denying Greene the double he is seeking in Seville. But with other leading sprinters, such as the quadruple Olympic silver medallist Frankie Fredericks and Obadele Thompson, in strong form, he will know that there was no point in going to the Championships unless he was in peak form.

The absence of Boldon is good news for every aspiring 200m runner in Seville - and following yesterday's decision by the UK Athletics selectors, that list includes the European silver medallist Doug Turner, who was chosen ahead of the world junior 100 and 200m champion Christian Malcolm for the third British 200m place alongside Julian Golding and Marlon Devonish.

The decision sparked an angry reaction from the 20-year-old Welshman, who took silver medals at 100 and 200m in the European under-23 championships the weekend before last, and who earned a Commonwealth silver medal behind Golding in Kuala Lumpur last September.

That form saw him voted as the world's most promising junior athlete only nine months ago, earning the endorsement of past Olympic champions such as Carl Lewis, Linford Christie and Donovan Bailey.

The 32-year-old Turner, who incurred a three-month suspension for a doping offence in 1997, equalled that time at Crystal Palace on Saturday in a race that the selectors wanted to make a run-off for the place, although Malcolm preferred to restrict himself to running the relay. "There was a hair's breadth between them," Britain's chief coach, Max Jones, said. "There was a lot of discussion, but in the end we decided that Doug could do a better job."

The selectors added a further 15 names to the British team, including Mark Sesay and Jason Lobo at 800m, and Karl Keska, Keith Cullen and Rob Denmark - back after two years of injury problems - in the 5000m.

Results, Digest, page 27