Edwards poised for historic leap

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The Independent Online
Jonathan Edwards, who produced the two longest triple jumps of all time in the European Cup on Sunday, will come back down to earth this week with training sessions on his local track in Gateshead.

The fluctuating wind in Lille's Stadium Nord saw to it that his efforts of 18.43 and 18.39 metres could not be counted for record purposes. But Edwards has an excellent early opportunity to put that right in the meeting next Sunday at the very track where he practises in all weathers.

"When you are training and it's snowing you are thinking it would be nice to break the world record," he said. "To do it at Gateshead would be a dream come true."

The achievement of that dream could be assisted by the presence in the Gateshead competition of Brian Wellman, Bermuda's world indoor champion, and Russia's European champion, Denis Kapustin. Of the world's top four in the event, only Yoelbi Quesada, of Cuba, will be missing. A clement night at a stadium that is often blustery would also contribute to the effort.

Edwards's was the most startling British achievement in a weekend when many strove mightily for the common good. Many athletes feel that making the European Cup an annual, rather than biennial, competition has devalued it.

It would be a terrible thing for the sport if familiarity with the event should ever breed contempt, because it generates a genuine emotional pull over two days of competition. An essentially individual sport becomes temporarily governed by the simple but profound imperative: don't let your mates down.

For Linford Christie, this competition provided the evidence that he is on course for the realisation of two ambitions this season: retention of his world 100 metres title, and a sub-20 second 200 metres. The latter might be a possibility on 3 July when he races in Paris against a field that is due to include the world champion, Michael Johnson.

For other British athletes, such as Mark Richardson, Melanie Neef and Ashia Hansen, who set her fifth British triple jump record in the space of nine months, the event provided an important opportunity to assert and establish themselves as winners. And there were those who excelled themselves to place higher than expected - such as Robert Weir, who took third place in the discus.

Hansen's chances of improving her record further will be raised by the presence of Marina Sokova, of Russia, who has jumped 14.54 metres, just the kind of distance that Hansen - who gave up her job in a haulage firm two weeks ago to become a full-time athlete - might reach from her present best of 14.37m.

The Gateshead meeting will take place without Christie and other members of the Nuff Respect team - unless there are any dramatic developments in the talks thought to have taken place yesterday between Christie's agent, Sue Barrett, and Peter Radford, the British Athletic Federation executive chairman.

But British athletics will be able to announce some good news today - what they describe as a "major sponsorship deal" which will take in Sunday's event at Gateshead.