Britain's qualified success

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The Independent Online
Athletics

Jonathan Edwards, Linford Christie and the 400 metres relay team provided Britain's men with European Cup victories here yesterday, but their efforts were not enough to close the gap on Germany, who retained the Cup by a margin of 17 points.

The prevailing British mood of modified rapture was characterised by Edwards's reaction after winning with his one counting jump of 17.79 metres. It is the furthest distance in the world this year, albeit wind-assisted, but Edwards had been hoping for something more in line with his startling performance in last year's European Cup, when he managed a wind-assisted 18.43, the furthest ever.

"I'm not ecstatically happy," he said. "In my mind I was thinking of something a bit further. I didn't feel that great."I am getting into my stride but the transition into the jump isn't quite like last year."

One of the first things he wanted to do afterwards was to phone his wife. "She'll probably say 'don't be so silly. Don't get down.'"

Christie, too, was satisfied rather than electrified. But while he has yet to announce whether he will defend his Olympic 100m title next month, he is adamant that this year will be his last, and he will walk away from this competition with a perfect record after completing his fourth sprint double yesterday.

Having set a Cup record of 10.04sec on Saturday, Christie was after an equally fast 200 metres time today. His appetite was sharpened upon hearing that Trinidad's Ato Boldon had run 9.92sec on Saturday.

But the blustery weather did not favour him, and he had to be satisfied with 20.25sec after seeing off a challenge from Sergei Ossovich of the Ukraine.

"It was my fastest 200 at the beginning of the season," he said. "The main thing was that I got maximum points."

Du'Aine Ladejo, second in the individual 400m on Saturday, anchored home the relay team of Mark Richardson, Jamie Baulch and Mark Hylton ahead of Germany, but he allowed Ralph Lieder to get uncomfortably close as he slowed before the line and lost concentration.

Colin Jackson, back in the fold after his disagreements with the British Athletic Federation, had to give best to Germany's Florian Schwarthoff in the 110m hurdles. Britain's world record holder, making his first European Cup appearance since 1993, narrowly held on to second place after hitting the last two barriers hard, finishing in 13.63sec to the German's 13.20.

Jackson, who had suffered a rare defeat to his fellow Briton Tony Jarrett at Bratislava in midweek, ran with a strapping on his right knee to counteract the tendinitis from which he has been suffering for two weeks. But he put his defeat down to a lack of basic speed and a recurring problem he has with the eighth hurdle.

"I need to get to work on a few things, but there's no mad panic," he said, pointing out that his main target - the Olympic final - was nearly two months away on 29 July.

Britain's men had begun the day without realistic hope of winning after the reinstatement of Germany's 1500 metres runner Rudiger Stenzel on Saturday evening. That extended the defending champion's first-day total to 71 points, leaving Britain 13 rather than four points adrift in third place.

If the appeal jury had been reluctant to disqualify the man who they said had started the pushing, Spain's Olympic champion Fermin Cacho, it could hardly have been for fear of a crowd disturbance. No more than 2,000 or so spectators were present at the Estadio de la Communidad on the city outskirts, and at least half of them appeared to be British.

Malcolm Arnold, Britain's chief coach, expressed satisfaction with the men's result, but said that both teams had been let down by individuals who had not made themselves available. "With a full team, we could have challenged the German men." he said. "All our big guys turned out but we had too many one or two point performances as well."

Britain's women, despite Saturday's victories by Sally Gunnell in the 400m hurdles and Ashia Hansen in the triple jump, began the day a distant fifth and eventually finished the day sixth on 74 points - their worst placing since 1975 - as the Germans retained their title with 116.

Denise Lewis, who had broken Judy Simpson's 10-year-old British heptathlon the weekend before, long jumped to within a centimetre of her best to earn fourth place with 6.66 metres.

Judy Oakes marked her record ninth appearance in the European Cup with an outstanding performance in the shot. The 38-year-old finished second behind Germany's world champion Astrid Kumbernuss with 19 metres - the furthest any British woman has thrown in a major competition, and the best placing.

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