Athletics: Runway gives Hansen high hopes of lift-off

Triple jumper leads British athletes' medal pursuit at the World Indoor Championships. By Mike Rowbottom in Maebashi, Japan
Click to follow
ASHIA HANSEN is ready to take a fast track to gold at the World Indoor Championships here on Sunday.

She believes the raised runway at the Maebashi Green Dome is ideally suited for her to produce the speed which sets her apart from the rest of the world's triple jumpers.

"It's brilliant - lovely and bouncy," she said yesterday, likening the surface to the one at Lievin in France where she produced a winning effort of 14.81 metres two weeks ago.

That was the furthest she had jumped since setting the world indoor record of 15.16m at last year's European Indoor Championships; and three narrow no-jumps of over 15 metres in the same competition pointed to even greater potential.

"I'm jumping the same kind of distances as I was this time last year, so it's very encouraging," she said.

Hansen, whose summer was ruined by a heel injury she sustained in setting her world record, managed to win the Commonwealth title last September with a relatively conservative jump, but at last month's Bupa indoor grand prix in Birmingham she showed that she was returning to top form when she matched the 14.76m recorded by the Czech Republic's world outdoor champion, Sarka Kasparkova with her last effort.

Her performance at the national indoor arena indicated that she had lost none of her competitive instincts. "I had flu four days before Birmingham and I hadn't shaken it off completely," she said.

Kasparkova is likely to be among her closest rivals tomorrow in a contest which will be witnessed by a sell-out crowd of 9,000 - and the Emperor and Empress of Japan, who will be attending their first sporting contest since the ski jump at last year's Winter Olympics in Nagano. It will be a contrast in technique.

"Kasparkova jumps like the old style of Russia jumper who muscles it out," Hansen said. "I've trained to jump like a man. I'm faster on the runway than she is."

Hansen will be taking a legal drug on the eve of competition - ibuprofen, an anti-inflammatory agent. "I don't want to feel any niggles, and it's great for sorting them out," she said. "I don't want that worry at the back of my mind."

Two years ago, Hansen had to hire a lawyer to get herself into the World Indoor Championships team after she had missed the trials while she was warm weather training in South Africa. Her commitment paid off, as she finished with a silver medal. "Now I can pay my legal bill," she said.

This time around there have been no such complications. She may not have a clear run - but at least Hansen has a clear runway.

Of the British contingent, only Eddie King was reported to have any injury problems yesterday. The 21-year-old Irishman damaged his calf two days ago, but is still in training.

Maurice Greene, the world 60m record holder, arrived here yesterday despite suffering a hamstring problem in qualifying at last weekend's US Indoor Championships. He was understandably cautious about predicting a world record. "I can't run for it," he said. "I'm just going to run the best I can and hope that it will happen."

Wilson Kipketer, here to defend the 800m title he won in a world record two years ago, was equally reticent about his chances. The naturalised Dane, who returned at the tail end of last season after suffering from malaria while on holiday in his native Kenya, denied that 1998 had been a disappointing year for him.

"It doesn't matter if I'm 100th best or 150th or even 200th. It's about how I feel. As long as I enjoy my running, that's all that matters to me."