Exclusive: Ben Johnson in comeback

THE DIARY

THE DIARY can reveal that Ben Johnson will be challenging for the coveted New Year Sprint title in Edinburgh next month. In an exclusive interview, Johnson revealed that he will be making his debut as a professional runner in the traditional handicap race meeting popularly known as "Powderhall" in recognition of the track where it was held until 1970. "I've been training with the `pro' guys since February," he said, "and I've been going pretty well. At my age, 35, you stand a better chance running against younger guys with the handicap system."

And time and the tide appeared to be catching up with Johnson last summer. In two comeback races he ran 13.2sec for 100m. Even at his peak, when he stopped the clock at 11.6, he was never quite as quick as his hero - the Ben Johnson who won the 1988 Olympic final in 9.79.

It was in May 1988, four months before big Ben was first struck off the competition list for failing a drugs test, that Gary Smith, as he was known at the time, decided to adopt the same name as the Canadian sprinter. He had read in the News of the World about a man changing his name by deed poll to Linda Lusardi. For 11 years now, the loyal Tynesider, a member of Wallsend Harriers and a floor manager at a Newcastle hotel, has stuck by his assumed identity. And he has no plans to change it now - even though the more fleet-footed Ben Johnson, already banned for life, has fallen foul of the drug-testing procedure for a third time.

"It's a name I've grown used to," he said the morning after traces of a banned diuretic were found in a urine sample voluntarily given by the former world record holder. "People know me as Ben Johnson now, except my wife, who insists on calling me Gary. I stuck by him and by his name in the hope that one day he would be cleared. Things have just gone from bad to worse but I'll keep his name running. I'll probably take it all the way to the grave."

In the meantime, there are sure to be a few grave looks when the other entrants for the 131st New Year Sprint discover that Ben Johnson will be getting to his mark at Musselburgh race track on 28 December.

Kevin's double trouble

IF IT has been a bad week for Ben Johnson (the Canadian Ben Johnson, that is) it has not exactly been a good one for Kevin Keegan - Kevin Keegan of Laurieston, Falkirk, that is. The 22-year-old appeared in Glasgow Sheriff Court on Monday, pleading not guilty to a breach of the peace in the aftermath of the Hampden leg of the "Battle of Britain". He was bailed to reappear on 20 January.

Star's key for Hutch

IT WAS a case of mistaken identity that set Don Hutchison on the high road to football success. It was with the specific intention of selling Rob McKinnon that Garry Gibson, Hartlepool's chairman at the time, sent every top division club a video of Pool's League Cup meeting with Spurs in October 1990. Instead of McKinnon's performance at left-back, though, it was Hutchison's midfield promise that caught the discerning eye of Kenny Dalglish.

Scotland's Wembley hero thus arrived at Anfield in a pounds 175,000 move in January 1991 - 12 months after being sacked by Hartlepool. Hutchison was dismissed by Cyril Knowles when he failed to turn up for the long trip to Colchester on New Year's Day 1990. After pleading for a second chance, he was eventually given one by the Hartlepool manager and Spurs icon. "I was very lucky to get it," Hutchison reflects. As the Scots might put it: nice one, Cyril.

Cyril's Swan song

THERE ARE those who would dispute whether Cyril, the mascot of Swansea City, is a nice swan. He has, after all, become embroiled in a touchline run-in with a visiting assistant manager at the Vetch Field and been fined pounds 1,000 by the Football Association of Wales for celebrating on the pitch with the Swansea players during an FA Cup tie against Millwall. He has, though, gained a considerable degree of popularity as well as notoriety in his two- year existence.

Last year he was voted Personality of the Year by the readers of the South Wales Evening Post. And the Swansea bookmakers Jack Brown have taken so much money on Cyril being named Welsh Sports Personality of the Year they have reduced the odds against him from 100-1 to 50-1. The model bird will not, however, be challenging for the award.

"BBC Wales have said there's no reason why a feathered mascot couldn't win but they feel that it really should go to a sports personality who is actually a sportsman or a sportswoman," Mike Lewis, Swansea's commercial director, said.

"To be honest," he added, "we're keen to take a few steps back on this because we really don't want to impinge on the credibility of the competition. You can't put a bloody nine- foot swan up against Neil Jenkins, for goodness sake."

The 9ft Cyril, however, could well be alongside the 5ft 10in Neil Jenkins when the big prize is presented in January. BBC Wales have suggested he might be involved in the awards ceremony. In the meantime, Swansea's biggest fan is preparing for a starring role on stage. He's appearing in Aladdin at the Grand Theatre in Swansea.

Animal farm out

ON THE subject of wildlife, it has reached the Diary's attention that David Murray is attempting to buy Edinburgh Zoo. The Rangers chairman is one of eight developers who have made bids for the 82-acre site. There appears to be no truth, however, in the rumour that he is interested in the Jungle end of Celtic Park too.

It's not the winning...

AND FINALLY... the Tartan Army's midweek trek south jogged memories of an old jaunt to Portugal. A battalion of the faithful footsoldiers went off to the training ground to see their heroes and, while they were waiting for the players to appear, became engaged in a kickabout with some young natives who also happened to be loitering in the vicinity. When the Scottish team eventually arrived, half an hour later, the Tartan Army were losing 22-1. They had, it transpired, been playing the Portuguese Under-21 side.

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star