Athletics: Robb seeks place at Palace

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CURTIS ROBB will compete in Friday's grand prix meeting at Crystal Palace after changing his racing plans. The 20-year-old Liverpudlian said after winning the British Olympic 800m trial that he would not run any major races before Barcelona.

But he confirmed yesterday that he would be negotiating with the meeting promoter, Andy Norman, for a place in an 800 metres field that includes his main British rival, Tom McKean, who became the fastest European this season by running 1min 44.75sec at Oslo, and Mark Everett, who was second in the US Olympic trial.

Tony Jarrett, who comfortably beat a gathering of the world's leading 110m hurdles performers at the Lille grand prix on Monday night, has an early opportunity to confirm whether that victory was as significant as it appeared.

Seven of the eight fastest high hurdlers this season will compete at Crystal Palace, including Jarrett - whose time on Monday of 13.04sec was inside Colin Jackson's European record but not allowable for record purposes because of the strength of the wind - Jackson, Tony Dees, whose 13.08 is the fastest legal time this year, Mark McKoy, who has run 13.11, and Greg Foster, the world champion.

Meanwhile Roger Black, beaten for the second time in five days by Quincy Watts, of the United States, at Lille, is lined up to meet four more leading US one-lap runners - Andrew Valmon, Michael Johnson, the world 200m champion, Antonio Pettigrew, who beat him to the world gold, and the Olympic champion, Steve Lewis.

The 400m will take up the largest part of the pounds 500,000 available for the meeting, whose long-term status had been in doubt before TSB stepped in with a three-year-deal. A far smaller proportion will be taken up by the re-match over 2,000m of Zola Budd-Pieterse and her old American rival Mary Slaney, whose meeting over 3,000m at Crystal Palace in 1985 saw Budd paid pounds 90,000 by television. This time her reward will be pounds 5,000.

The cost of setting up Daley Thompson's last attempt to achieve the Olympic decathlon qualifying standard before Friday's midnight deadline was significantly less - 'just about the cost of Michael Johnson's big toe', according to Norman - although the inconvenience factor is high.

Between them, however, the British Athletic Federation and the Southern England Athletic Association will gather the estimated 24 officials required.

There is no official requirement for competitors, but however many assemble they will not include Alex Kruger, who, perhaps influenced by the Achilles tendon injury he is carrying, has turned down an invitation to have one last attempt to reach the standard.

Peter Elliott has been told he will not have to race in competition before the Olympics, but must prove his 'competitive fitness' in a time trial in front of a British Athletic Federation representative before 21 July to guarantee his 1500 metres place. The decision by British officials avoids a confrontation with Elliott, who had said he would not race until he was ready. Elliott, who injured a knee in a race at Rotherham last month, will run a 1200m time trial in the next two weeks.