Britons prepare to rise in the east

Robert Dorsett in Fukuoka looks ahead to the World Student Games
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Japan has been unable to avoid the headlines recently and not many of them have been favourable. Now, however, the country is putting on a happier public face, staging a sporting event here which is second only to the Olympic Games in terms of the number of events and competitors.

A glance at some of the names attending the 18th Games reveals the quality of competition on view here. Ato Boldon, bronze medal winner in the 100 metres at the World Championships, and the former world champion gymnast, Svetlana Bouginskaia, are two of the highest achievers here. In gymnastics, Britain's Neil Thomas is a worthy flag-bearer for the opening ceremony as silver medal winner at consecutive World Championships and the first male British gymnast to win a medal at world level. It is his first World Student Games and, ironically, he lines up against the athlete who beat him to the gold medal at the World Championships, Vitali Scherbo of Belarus, who staggered the world with six gold medals at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.

The British swimming team includes four of the top seven freestylers in the country in Alan Rapley, Mark Stevens, Simon Handley and Nicholas Osborne. They represent the best chance of gold, in the 4x100m freestyle, although Lucy Findlay, after an impressive second place in the national championships, has a good chance of success.

The athletics, due to start on 29 August, sees Britain's only defending champion, Tosi Fasinro, go in the triple jump aided by Julian Golley, the reigning Commonwealth champion. David Grindley and Brendan Reilly both have points to prove after the former recently returned from long- term injury and the latter had a disappointing World Championships in Gothenburg.

The present crop are in exalted company, with the likes of Liz McColgan, Dave Moorcroft, Steve Backley and Kirsty Wade among the World Student Games' alumni, which makes the event's low profile in Britain a source of frustration.

Mike Turner, the British students athletics team manager, attributes it to a divorce between senior governing bodies and their student equivalents. "It is certainly a shame the British Athletic Federation and media don't really recognise the standard of the Games, because student sport is a great springboard for the senior competitions. Given the right support, many more sports people might come through to senior level and international success."