Athletics: Regis and Murray prove readiness for Rome: British championships leave selectors with plenty of food for thought in their choices for the European Cup team

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The Independent Online
JOHN REGIS and Yvonne Murray produced peformances to bring an easy smile to the faces of Britain's team selectors on the second day of the Pearl British championships here yesterday. Others were not so accommodating.

As the selectors met last night to decide on today's announcement of the team for the European Cup in Rome in two weeks' time, Regis - who won the 200 metres in 20.21sec, the fastest time by a European this year - and Murray, who wants to run the 1500m after winning yesterday's 3,000m world championship trial emphatically, were names to fit the bill without further worry.

But there will have been room for discussion in several other areas, notably the 400m hurdles and the high jump, where Steve Smith, the world junior champion and world indoor bronze medallist, went out at just 2.05m and Dalton Grant, who finished fourth in the world indoors, won with the respectable but unspectacular height of 2.25m.

Smith, who jumped 2.33 in a British League match last weekend off just five strides, does not intend to practice off a full approach run - which he last used in winning his medal in Toronto - until tomorrow, in preparation for next week's meeting in Belfast.

'If the selectors don't pick me, they would be making a big mistake,' Smith said. Grant saw things differently. 'I expect to be picked,' he said. 'This was supposed to be the jump- off between Steve and me.'

The 400m hurdles was also the subject of some debate last night as the relative merits of Kriss Akabusi, the Olympic bronze medallist who had planned to retire from major meetings this season, and Gary Cadogan, who, as Akabusi did six years ago, has moved over to the event from the 400m flat.

In what was only his fifth race over hurdles, Cadogan, a 27-year-old from Haringey, broke the 50-second barrier - and the ninth barrier - to take the title. It betokened a steady improvement - in Saturday's heat he ran 50.43 and broke two hurdles.

While his initial reaction at a time of 49.80sec was one of slight disappointment - having run 50.05 in windy conditions earlier this season he had hoped to beat 49 seconds - he was assuming that the victory would be enough to earn him a European Cup place in Rome at the end of the month. There were rumours, however, that at least one influential British selector preferred to rely upon Akabusi's experience for Rome.

'If you don't give him a try, how will you ever know if he is good enough?' Akabusi said after running 46.53sec in the 400m behind Du'aine Ladejo. 'I was like that in 1987, and I was given the chance.'

Regis, who avoided the temptation of racing a less-than-sharp Linford Christie on Saturday, was rewarded for sticking to his race programme instead, and was rewarded with a time 0.20sec faster than he had been expecting. 'If I hadn't stumbled at the start, I might have run 20.00,' he said. A good omen for Stuttgart, never mind Rome. Regis also hinted that Christie, who has said he is not planning to run relays this season, had agreed to run the anchor leg for the 4x100m team in Rome. Intriguing.

Regis dragged four other Britons under 21 seconds - a good omen for the event in general - including David Grindley, who thus sealed his 400m individual place for Rome.

Steve Cram looked laboured in finishing second over 5,000m to Jon Brown, of Sheffield, who caught him out with a burst four laps from home. As far as the European Cup is concerned, both expect the place to go to Rob Denmark, who ran 13:16 in Seville last Saturday.

Curtis Robb's 1,500m win in 3:39.58 solved a problem for the selectors while David Sharpe's defeat in the 800m, by Martin Steele, was almost certainly good news for the absent Tom McKean, the world indoor champion.

(Photograph omitted)