Edwards home to celebrate

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The Independent Online


Gateshead has the opportunity to welcome back its own world champion today as Jonathan Edwards returns to compete on home ground in the Bupa Challenge match between Great Britain and the United States.

Edwards set successive triple jump world records of 18.16 metres and 18.29m in Gothenburg two weeks ago - but does not expect to return to that standard on home territory. "I'll be very surprised if I jump 18 metres again this season," he said. "I want to enjoy myself in the next few weeks and say a big thanks to all my supporters."

"It will be totally different to the World Championships, where the adrenalin is running and you produce something extra. All I can say to people is come and watch me, but don't expect an 18.30 jump." Edwards has lined up a further six meetings this summer, but has decided to take the winter off to prepare for next year's Olympics in Atlanta.

"The Olympics are paramount to me," he said. "I'll miss the indoor season and hopefully be fresh for a big year next year."

The British Athletic Federation will be grateful for Edwards' presence, nevertheless, given the disappointment of Linford Christie's withdrawal two days after he had run his fastest 100 metres of the season in Zurich.

While Christie is running in a fragile condition because of his hamstring and knee injuries, he has clearly set his own agenda for the rest of the season and a low-key international in Gateshead is not something he has gone out of his way to be fit for.

Despite the name of the event, the challenge presented by an under-strength American team is hardly great.

Rivalries between British runners appear to offer the most competitive meetings. Notably in the 110 metres hurdles, where Colin Jackson, the former world record holder, meets the world silver medallist, Tony Jarrett. Jarrett has lost the last 27 races to Jackson - his last win was in Belfast on 31 August, 1992.

In the 400m, Roger Black is due to race against his fellow World Championship finalist, Mark Richardson.

In the women's 400m, Melanie Neef, who set a personal best of 51.18sec in Gothenburg, meets world-class opposition in the form of Rochelle Stevens, a member of the US relay gold medallist squad.