Edwards wary of expectation

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The Independent Online
Ready or not, the Centennial Olympic Stadium will be declared open today, the paint work still not yet dry when Vice-President Al Gore cuts the ribbon on the $208m venue. Jonathan Edwards, competing in his first triple jump for eight months, feels as if he has something even more precious at stake.

"I've never been in this position before. I find that more difficult, the expectation..." Edwards. a week past his 30th birthday, said yesterday.

The near perfection of his performances last year have filled Edwards with more doubt than confidence for Olympic year. "I'm petrified. Can I ever jump that well ever again?"

As part of the biggest single day's track meeting ever staged in America, in front of an anticipated attendance of 60,000, the biggest crowd in the history of Grand Prix athletics, Edwards will soon discover the answer, since today he faces Mike Conley, the Olympic gold medalist in Barcelona.

The quality of today's triple-jump is matched throughout the meeting, one of only four athletics meetings that will be staged here before the track is ripped up to make way for a new home for the Atlanta Braves baseball team.

Top of the bill is the 200 metres race between the world champion, Michael Johnson, and the Olympic gold medallist, Mike Marsh, but the crowd's interest should be sustained through a six hour programme which also includes the 100m return of Carl Lewis, and a sprint-hurdles match between Allen Johnson, Roger Kingdom and Tony Jarrett, one of five Britons taking their only opportunity to try out the Olympic track.

The men's 400m is the most interesting race from a British viewpoint. Roger Black takes on one of the new kids in their starting blocks, Iwan Thomas, who is ranked third in the world this year following his Welsh record 44.66sec last month. With Ladejo, Richardson, Baulch and Grindley also fighting this summer for places in Britain's Olympic team, Black's hope is that today's race will not be the last time he gets to lap up the atmosphere here.