Commonwealth Games: Rapid Boldon emboldened by fast track

Commonwealth Games: Britons face daunting task as leading sprinters prepare for assault on 100m world record
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The Independent Online
UNLESS Ato Boldon and Frankie Fredericks undergo a change of heart, which would be not so much at the 11th hour as at the 11th hour and the 59th minute, the newly-laid track at the 1,000-spectator capacity Bukit Jalal stadium may produce a 100 metres world record tomorrow.

Certainly Boldon, who was eventually persuaded to compete here at the Commonwealth Games for Trinidad and Tobago, believes so. Never one to be lost for words, the 24-year-old, who won the world 200m title last year and Olympic bronze medals at 100m and 200m the year before, is talking up the prospect.

"The chances are very good," he said after training for over an hour in the heat and humidity of the stadium. "These are the ideal record-breaking conditions and you have it all here. It's just like Trinidad and my body comes alive in the heat. I have always run my best in hot, humid conditions."

Boldon's best thus far is 9.86sec, which he has clocked twice this season, just 0.02sec off the world record held by Canada's Olympic Champion Donovan Bailey, who has an Achilles tendon injury.

Despite Bailey's absence, the level of competition has been raised by Fredericks' decision to run here after all. The Namibian, who has four Olympic silver medals, took offence at his Prime Minister's recent assertion that he was not the country's leading athlete because he did not have an Olympic gold. But Fredericks has now been sufficiently mollified to turn up.

Also here is the man who won the World Cup 100m at the weekend in 9.87sec, Obadele Thompson of Barbados. Although he had the advantage of competing at high altitude in recording that time, Thompson appears to be on a roll and is the man Boldon names as his closest rival.

Thompson's capacity to run very fast has not been in question since his achievement two years ago in El Paso, when he covered the 100 metres in 9.69sec - the fastest ever recorded - although the time was annulled for record purposes because of a strong following wind.

In the space of just a few days, an event which appeared open for plunder by the English pair of Darren Campbell and Dwaine Chambers, first and second respectively at last month's European Championships, has been transformed to the point where either would do well to finish with a medal.

Campbell, like Boldon and Fredericks, had planned not to compete in these Games but changed his mind a couple of weeks ago while moping about at home in Cardiff - prompted by an impulse to have a first look at the video recording of his European win.

"My hamstring was hurting, and I had flu, and I was feeling really fed up with running," Campbell said. "But then I picked up the tape of my win and watching it brought tears to my eyes. The memory of it hit me and suddenly it was as if my cold went and my back felt OK again. It was a really strange feeling."

Call it a vision; call it television. Either way, Campbell's mind was made up.

While Colin Jackson has decided the need to secure a third Commonwealth title is not a pressing one, others have been driven to compete here by real ambition.

For Mark Richardson, whose 400m heats get underway today along with those for the 100m, this competition represented - in his own phrase - a chance to redeem himself after his European Championship defeat by Ewan Thomas, who is running here for Wales. That performance brought about what Richardson describes as his "lowest low" since he started running competitively.

"I thought I was going to do something very special that day," Richardson recalls, adding that he was contemplating recording a time of around 44.2sec, well inside Thomas' British record of 44.36. "I was trying too hard to make something happen, rather than letting it happen."

In the interim, he has won the IAAF grand prix final in Moscow, beating a strong field which, incidentally, included Thomas, to earn himself $50,000 (pounds 30,000). He chose to miss last weekend's World Cup, where he was due to run in the 400m relay, in order to concentrate on these Games.

That, obviously, is something Thomas has not been able to do. Having won the World Cup individual 400m and anchored Britain to second place in Sunday night's relay, he faced an opening heat just a day after flying in from Johannesburg.