Athletics: Tunstall gives a dashing display

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The Independent Online
STEVE TUNSTALL admitted that he found the going hard in yesterday's British cross-country trial here, but every other runner in the field found it harder. As a former French Legionnaire, this 28-year- old from Preston is acquainted with the tougher side of life, and he gave no sign of weakness on a course where the going was good to soft as he came home first to ensure a place in Britain's team for the world championships in Amorebieta in Spain on 28 March.

He will be accompanied in his task by the Olympic 10,000m finalist Richard Nerurkar, who was absent yesterday, and Dave Lewis, who was unable to run because of a cold. The other six places were awarded to those who crossed the line behind Tunstall: Dave Clarke, Eamonn Martin (who will thus contest his seventh world championships), Andy Bristow, Paul Dugdale and Darren Mead, with Andrew Pearson named as travelling reserve.

The two optional places in the women's team went to Liz McColgan, who was due to set off for South Africa today and who indicated her preparedness to compete in Spain in a fax to the British Federation last week, and Paula Radcliffe, who was advised not to race shortly beforehand because she had a chest infection.

In Radcliffe's absence the women's race was won by Suzanne Rigg, an American who acquired a British passport last year with a speed not seen since Zola Budd managed the same thing 10 years ago.

She will be joined by Alison Wyeth, Vikki McPherson and Gillian Stacey; Andrea Whitcombe is named as travelling reserve.

After emerging from the roped- off finish area, Tunstall squelched through the car park and into the field where his belongings awaited him inside a plastic supermarket bag. Glamorous cross-country may not be, but it is the event to which Tunstall chiefly aspires.

'I was 14th in the world cross- country in 1988,' he said. 'My main ambition is to improve on that.'

At that time he was competing for France as a member of the Legion. Since his return to Britain the following year, nothing has matched that achievement. He qualified as a Briton for the 1991 world championships, finishing 53rd. Any hopes he had of improving on that last year were spoiled by an Achilles tendon injury. But this year he has returned to the training methods he employed during his five year stint in France, and he believes he is now running as well as he did five years ago. Now he will lay off racing and prepare to prove a point to himself next month.