British best seek lift-off for Turin

Britain's best cross-country runners - with a couple of significant exceptions, assemble on a course next to Luton Airport tomorrow, all of them seeking lift-off to the World Championships in Turin in three weeks' time.

Britain's success at the European Championships before Christmas, where Jon Brown won the men's individual title and the women took the team silver medal, has raised the profile of a sport. Brown will not be running the trials, choosing instead to train at high altitude in Vancouver. Britain's top woman, Paula Radcliffe, will also train at altitude in Albuquerque.

"We never expected Jon to be at the trials," Dave Clarke, the British team manager, said. "It was the same with Paula. We are in regular contact with both of them. Cross-country is very good at trying to support people of this calibre. We are desperate to field our top athletes so that we can do as well as possible."

Other than these two, however, and the current national champion Jon Nuttall, who is making recovery from a shin problem, which is likely to prevent him competing in Turin, all the other leading exponents will be at Luton. They include Andrew Pearson, the 1995 European bronze medallist, Keith Cullen, last year's trials winner who reached the Olympic steeplechase semi-final, Rob Denmark the 28-year-old Commonwealth 5,000 metres champion, Lucy Elliott, whoestablished herself as No 2 to Radcliffe this season with four top seven placings in International Amateur Athletic Federation World Challenge races and Andrea Whitcombe, one of the European silver medallists along with Elliott.

"In a funny way, the races will be better without Jon and Paula because they will be that much closer," Clarke said. "It is a wonderful opportunity for someone to come and make a name for themselves."

That someone might be Christian Stephenson, the 22-year-old from Cardiff who made the top 30 in the 1993 World Junior Championships.

What would delight every neutral would be the sight of Glyn Tromans forcing his way into the team in what will be his first serious race since 1995.

Tromans, a Coventry lecturer, had two major operations on his heart last year to seal a valve. Since then he has made a remarkable recovery, to such an extent that when he missed the European Championships last December it was because of calf trouble rather than heart trouble.

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