European Athletics Championships: Regis ready to add to Britain's sprint success

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The Independent Online
BRITAIN had only one winner the last time the European Championships were held in Helsinki 24 years ago - David Jenkins, who made his name at 19 by taking the 400 metres from the outside lane, writes Mike Rowbottom.

This year is certain to be far more profitable; those carrying Union Jacks into the remodelled Olympic Stadium will not be wasting their time. Even so, Britain's chances of bettering their haul from Split four years ago - nine golds, five silvers and four bronzes - are remote.

Four years ago Britain's captain, Linford Christie, approached these championships with sublime - and justified - confidence. This time round, however, there is a seed of doubt in his mind. He has not raced since suffering a hamstring tear at Crystal Palace on 15 July, and the prospect of going into the first of four 100 metres rounds tomorrow in such circumstances will give even the world and Olympic champion pause for thought.

Malcolm Arnold, Britain's chief coach, acknowledged as much yesterday. 'Linford was disappointed that he could not run in Monaco on Tuesday,' he said. 'It is not ideal.'

But Arnold reported that Christie had come through some intensive 10, 30 and 60-metre training sprints with his team-mate Colin Jackson in Monte Carlo on Wednesday. Jackson, meanwhile, learned that his rival in the 110m hurdles, Mark McKoy, was reporting a groin strain which put his participation in doubt.

While Christie has something to fret about, his old sprinting rival John Regis arrives here in fabulous form having set a new British 200m record of 19.87sec at altitude last Sunday and finished a close second to Michael Johnson in Monte Carlo in a time of 20.01.

Regis, who made a cautious start to the season because of niggling injury, is one of the strongest favourites of the championships.

Roger Black, back after a demoralising viral complaint, seeks an unprecedented third 400m title. But will he be frustrated by his in-form team-mate, Du'Aine Ladejo? Will Steve Backley, the defending javelin champion, and Mick Hill, the world bronze medallist, have a good day after a season which has fluctuated dramatically for both?

There are also hopes for competitors on the fringes of things who might use the forthcoming week as an opportunity to establish themselves in the way that Jenkins did. Athletes such as Gary Lough, the 23-year-old 1500m runner, or Gary Cadogan, down to 49.09sec in the 400m hurdles after less than two years at the event.

Or Jacqui Agyepong, who produced the run of her life to win the European Cup 100m hurdles final in Birmingham; or Michelle Griffith, the 22-year-old who has triple-jumped 14.08m this season. Or indeed Katharine Merry, who has been around for years having set a world 200m age best at 14 but is now, at the age of 19, ready to re-make her name as a senior.

While Russia's Irina Privalova has a clear chance of emulating Katrin Krabbe's sprint double of four years ago, there does not appear to be any athlete who will dominate the occasion. Many of the events - notably the men's 1500m and both 10,000m and marathon races - are intriguingly open.

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