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Athletics: Richardson ponders new career move to US

MARK RICHARDSON, Britain's leading 400m runner this year, is considering a move to the United States in an attempt to revive his career in time to win an Olympic medal at the Sydney Games next year.

By anyone's standards, let alone his own high expectations, Richardson had a disappointing World Champ- ionships in Seville. At 27, and as the last man ever to beat world and Olympic champion Michael Johnson over one lap, Richardson had gone to Spain with reasonable hopes of collecting two medals. Yet he returned empty-handed following a poor fifth in the individual final and without even having had a relay run, following his controversial omission from the 4 x 400m relay heats, where Britain, the European champions, failed to proceed to the final.

So devastated was Richardson after trailing in Johnson's wake in the World Championships final, nearly 1.5sec behind the American's world-record 43.18, that he has already had talks about moving to California this winter to train with John Smith, the coach to the 100 and 200m world champion, Maurice Greene. "The event's moved on, and I've got to reassess my approach," Richardson said yesterday after finishing second in 45.89 behind Antonio Pettigrew of the US (45.70) in the CGU Challenge match between Britain and the United States. "Even if I'd equalled the European record in the final in Seville, I would only have finished fourth."

Richardson has spent previous winters in the Californian sun, but feels that since the retirement of his friend Roger Black he has missed the presence of a training partner who can push him to his limits, and beyond.

Smith's reputation as a sprints coach is unmatched: as well as guiding Greene to become the world's fastest man, he also looks after the women's 200m world title-winner, Inger Miller, and Ato Boldon, of Trinidad, Greene's predecessor as 200m world champion.

Over one lap, Smith's credentials are perhaps even more impressive. He has coached Steve Lewis and Quincy Watts, Olympic champions in 1988 and 1992, Kevin Young, the 400m hurdles world record-holder, and Marie-Jose Perec, winner of Olympic 400m gold in 1992 and 1996. In his own career, Smith set the world best for 440 yards.

This morning, Richardson will be packing away his racing spikes for the autumn and taking a holiday before beginning again the annual cycle of training. For if the competition at Seville's World Championships had all the richness of a Velasquez painting, Glasgow yesterday resembled more the sketchiness of a Warner Bros cartoon. The message was clear: that's all, folks.

"The World Championships were very draining," Gail Devers, who went through eight races in Spain, admitted before winning her 100m race in 11.53 yesterday. "It took a lot out of everyone."

Tired or not, Dean Macey, British athletics' next superstar, did his best to shake the hands of all 6,000 spectators at the Scotstoun, and sign almost as many autographs. The young decathlete, unable to find an event in which individual excellence would not embarrass his all-round talent, dutifully and patiently stood in the drizzle, dangerously risking an overuse injury of his writing hand.

The Americans had seven world champions to choose from, but fielded just two - Devers and Greene - while Britain's lone gold-medallist, Colin Jackson, turned out with every other home medal-winner. Despite such an imbalance, British victories were rare, as the Americans took the match by 171 points to 143.

Greene took on world bronze-medal winner Dwain Chambers and European champion Darren Campbell in the 100m, winning in 10.16 to the fast-finishing Campbell's 10.19.

Jonathan Edwards, disappointed with his bronze in Seville, was the first home winner of the day, and set a Scottish all-comers' record with 17.07 metres in the triple jump. Afterwards, Edwards revealed it was a change of shoes that cost him a better medal in Seville. Having taken on new shoe sponsors last winter, only too late did Edwards realise that his new spikes are longer than the old brand. Instead of measuring his run- up with 138 pigeon-steps, Edwards now thinks he needed only 137. "I worked it out on Thursday," he said, explaining that he had studied tapes of his Seville jumps at home.

The first British win on the track was a battling 400m performance from Katharine Merry, who fought off the twin challenge of Maicel Malone and Michelle Collins and clocked 51.11sec.

Jackson duly took the laurels in the 110m hurdles in 13.35, but much attention was focused on the 18-year-old Chris Baillie, whose brother, Ross, had died from an allergic reaction earlier this summer.

Chris Baillie, making his senior international debut, finished fifth in 14.03, an improvement on his own best by 0.08, but still just outside his older brother's Scottish junior record. "There's always next year," Baillie said. "It's a good way to finish off the season." Indeed it is.