Athletics: Sprint pair lead good day for Britain

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The Independent Online
THE SUN shone, both literally and metaphorically, on British athletics on Saturday as the CGU British Grand Prix, carrying an investment of pounds 1.75m, produced performances sufficient to send away the International Amateur Athletic Federation's observer with a smile on his face.

Top-level efforts from the four international stars of the show - Maurice Greene, Marion Jones, Hicham El Guerrouj and Haile Gebrselassie - and a number of outstanding showings from home athletes, most notably the sprinters Dwain Chambers and Julian Golding, will mean that the flagship British event will move well up the European league table when the points are totted up at the end of the season.

As expected, the sprints produced times never before witnessed in this country. Greene ran the first ever sub-10second 100 metres on UK soil with a winning time of 9.97sec, while Greene's compatriot, Marion Jones, won her race in 10.80sec, the fastest in the world this year.

Chambers was the closest of the domestic challengers to Greene, finishing third in a time of 10.04, which equalled Linford Christie's fastest legal 100m time by a British athlete on home soil.

Golding, Chambers's friend and training partner, was indicating his own immense potential with a 200m victory in 20.23sec into a 0.6m per second headwind.

The 24-year-old Blackheath Harrier, who planned to undertake his usual Sunday task yesterday in playing the organ at the Church of God of Prophecy in Cricklewood, is aiming to run under 20 seconds for the distance this year, a feat only previously achieved by one Briton, John Regis.

"I know what I have to do to find those extra two tenths of a second," said the Commonwealth champion. "That's easy. The way to advance is right in front of me. Only the greats run under 20 seconds, and I may never do it.

"But everybody has to realise their potential at some stage in their career, and why shouldn't I now?"

On Wednesday, Golding will have the opportunity of measuring his ambition against some of the fastest men in the world when he takes part in the Weltklasse Golden League meeting in Zurich. Even if he fails to eclipse the mark on that special day, he could do enough to show promise of even greater things in Seville.

Golding's track victory was complemented by British victories in the field from Jonathan Edwards and Steve Smith, who held off the rising challenge of Ben Challenger, the European Under-23 champion, in the high jump with a clearance of 2.28metres that prompted him to essay one of his trademark back flips on the landing area.

Hicham El Guerrouj, who had hoped to beat his world mile record of 3min 43.13sec, had to settle for a time of 3:47.10, which took 2.39sec off the All-comers' record of the man whom the Moroccan rates as one of his all-time favourites, Steve Cram.

Cram's old rival Steve Ovett also lost an all-comers' record as Gebrselassie won the two miles in 8min 01.07sec.