Athletics: Whitlock breaks pole and another record

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The Independent Online
By Mike Rowbottom

JANINE WHITLOCK, who set her 26th British pole vault record at Bedford on Saturday, faces the rest of the season without the pole which she has used to such good effect this year. The 24-year-old Trafford athlete, who raised her best to 4.31m, suffered a heavy fall when her number one pole snapped during her subsequent attempt at 4.36m.

"It was a bit of a shock," Whitlock said. "But luckily I landed on the bed."

Once she had recovered herself, Whitlock decided it was important to get back into competition and, using a large pole, she had two more attempts at 4.36m, only brushing the bar off on her way down with the second of them.

It has already been an eventful year for Whitlock, who finished fourth at the European Indoor Championships in Valencia three months ago and has raised the British record in three out of her last four competitions.

So frequent has her record-breaking become since she took over the position as Britain's No 1 last year that she has lost count of her achievements. Asked yesterday how many records she had, she replied with a laugh: "About 25. Or 26."

Statisticians maintain it is 26. But such details matter less to Whitlock than the steady improvement she is making in a year which offers opportunities for her at both the European Championships and the Commonwealth Games.

Her main objective is the latter event, as she is currently second in the Commonwealth standings behind Australia's Emma George, who holds the outdoor record of 4.59. "I will be looking for silver at the Commonwealth," she said. "Obviously Emma is the one I have got to aim for."

The European event may prove more difficult as there are four or five vaulters ranked higher than her. But she will be able to gauge the opposition when she takes part in the European Cup in St Petersburg later this month. She hopes to match her performance in last year's event, when she finished third.

The other highlight of the Bedford meeting was a 200 metres in which Sarah Wilhelmy, the 19-year-old English schools and AAA Junior champion from Southend defeated a field which included British international Donna Fraser in 23.25sec.

Meanwhile Du'aine Ladejo, who last weekend achieved the Commonwealth qualifying mark with his first decathlon, announced that he had enlisted the help of the former Olympic champion Daley Thompson. Ladejo competed in the 110m hurdles on Saturday recording 14.79sec and long jumped 6.95m.

Roger Black, who planned to run his first individual 400 metres since a viral infection wrecked his form last season at a meeting in Seville on Saturday, has postponed his effort until the Bratislava meeting on 9 June.

Black's flight to Seville was badly delayed on Friday evening through industrial action by Spanish air traffic controllers. Faced with a diversion to Malaga and a three-hour bus journey which would have got him into Seville at 6am on the day of his race, Black decided caution was the best option. "If I had been 21, I would have gone," he said. "But when you're 32 and you've had the health problems I've had, you don't need all that."

Black's fellow 400m Mark Hylton, did endure the journey. However he may have wished he hadn't bothered after finishing second in a time of 46.82sec.