Athletics: Benjamin back in at deep end against classy field
Friday 02 June 2006
Most athletes who have just recovered from an injury that had sidelined them for the best - or worst - part of six months, would look for a reasonably easy race to ease themselves back into action. But Tim Benjamin does not think that way. Which is why tonight he will line up in the 400 metres in the opening IAAF Golden League meeting at Oslo's Bislett Stadium against a field that includes the Olympic champion, Jeremy Wariner, and Canada's world bronze medallist Tyler Christopher.
"I've never really believed in low-key warm-up races," said the 24-year-old Welshman. "I'd always rather just get in amongst it and know I have to run fast." Benjamin broke through to sub-45 second territory last season, beating Wariner at Crystal Palace in the process, and went on to finish fifth at the World Championships before recording a personal best of 44.56sec at the World Athletics final last September. He also finished ahead of Wariner there, although the American jogged home on that occasion.
The Olympic champion is not likely to prove such relatively soft opposition on this occasion, especially as he has run the fastest time this season, 44.12sec. But Benjamin's main aim will be to push himself to competitive limits and see how his body responds. The question of what his injury actually was drew a wry grin.
"The injury?" he said. "Well, it's an ongoing hip problem, slash foot problem, slash..." Whenever Benjamin gets glum, however, he reminds himself that he has yet to miss an entire season through injury - unlike his mentor, Roger Black.
"When you consider what some athletes went through in their careers, you sometimes wonder what you are moaning about," Benjamin said. "I have been doing everything to test the injury in training." Also racing tonight is another British athlete who has been injured for even longer - Abi Oyepitan, who will return from 18 months away to face a daunting 200 metres field.
The world's joint-fastest man, Asafa Powell, will be opening his European season over 100 metres against a field including his compatriot Michael Frater, the world silver medallist, and Olympic 200m champion Shawn Crawford.
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