Athletics: Thomas takes Black's record

ATHLETICS
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Iwan Thomas broke Roger Black's British 400 metres record at the world trials here yesterday, finishing clear of Mark Richardson and Jamie Baulch in a time of 44.36sec, 0.01sec inside Black's mark.

Thomas and his colleagues learned here yesterday they may have to face Michael Johnson at next month's Championships in Athens.

Primo Nebiolo, the International Amateur Athletic Association president, is expected to announce today that wild cards will, after all, be offered to all defending world champions who have failed to qualify.

That might let in a number of leading Americans, including Gwen Torrence in the 200m, Gail Devers in the 100m hurdles, Dan O'Brien in the decathlon - and Johnson, the world and Olympic champion, assuming he can overcome the continuing injury problems which saw him withdraw from yesterday's meeting in Stuttgart.

There has been considerable debate within IAAF circles about making such an unprecedented award. A high-ranking official indicated yesterday that Nebiolo had won his argument to maintain the Championship's profile in the post-Olympic year following the withdrawal of popular figures such as Marie-Jose Perec and Haile Gebrselassie.

On a day when Britain's younger athletes brought their total of gold medals to five at the European Under-23 championships, several members of the older generation distinguished themselves. The most surprising performance came from Scotland's 32-year-old former European 3,000m champion, Yvonne Murray, who qualified for this summer's World Championships after two years' absence with injury.

In what was only her second track race since 1995, she finished runner- up in the 5,000m behind Paula Radcliffe, recording 15min 39.08sec, just inside the world qualifying mark of 15min 40sec.

"Now I will have to decide whether I actually want to go to the worlds," Murray said. "The temptation is there, but I don't want to put pressure on myself." When asked to provide measurements for the British team kit, however, she complied immediately.

On Saturday, Tessa Sanderson qualified for the World Championships at the age of 41 after winning her first competition since injuring her back in March. Her domestic pre-eminence was emulated by Judy Oakes, who won her 39th national title in the shot putt with 18.42m. She thus has a title for every year of her age.

Steve Backley, who has missed two weeks' competition because of a minor virus infection, returned to action with a morale-raising victory in the javelin with 86.20 metres. But Steve Smith, bronze medallist in the high jump at the Olympics, had to withdraw, walking off with the competition in its early stages.

Chris Rawlinson, the former TV Gladiators contender who broke through this season to earn Britain's 400m hurdles European Cup place, improved his personal best to 49.69sec in making sure of a run in Athens. Gary Jennings, in second place, gave a relieved smile after learning he had finished 0.02sec inside the qualifying mark.

Andy Hart, of Coventry Godiva, also made a name for himself in winning the 800m title ahead of Mark Sesay, with a time of 1min 46.36sec, also inside the world mark.

The men's 200m runners took to the track in the knowledge that Julian Golding had just set the fastest British time of the year - 20.46sec - in winning his European Under-23 title in Turku, Finland.

Golding's performance was followed by further sprinting success as Britain's men won the 4x100m relay, and the women won gold at the 400m relay to confirm a weekend of success over one lap. On Saturday, Mark Hylton won the individual title in 45.71sec, and Alison Curbishley took the women's gold in a Scottish record of 50.85. Doug Walker took the 200m title in a slower time than Golding's - 20.63sec - to complete a Scottish double in the sprints here following Ian Mackie's 100m victory.

Kelly Holmes, who won Saturday's 800m with impressive ease in 1min 58.59sec before pulling out of the 1500 with a slight chest cold, maintained afterwards that she was not afraid of any of her rivals for Athens. "See my nose growing," she added, with a laugh.

Sanderson failed in at least one respect on Saturday. The former Olympic champion, who returned to compete in Atlanta last summer after three years in retirement, says she has prolonged her career in order to encourage young British throwers.

But after winning with her first throw - 58.30m - she criticised the level of performance in her event. "Today the opposition was boring," she said.

Results, Digest, page 19

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