Athletics: British sprinters run out of opportunities

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The Independent Online

British sprinting hit a new low point yesterday when it was announced that the men's 200 metres would be dropped from next month's Norwich Union British Grand Prix at Gateshead.

The news comes in the wake of three seasons in which sprint performances at major championships have fallen dramatically away from the standards of previous years. Now Fast Track, who promote Britain's athletics events, have altered the programme of the 11 June event, replacing the longer sprint with a 110m hurdles race.

"We have a duty to showcase the very best British talent that we can in these events," said Fast Track's managing director, Jon Ridgeon. "It's fair to say that at the moment we cannot justify having a men's 200m in each of our grands prix - as perhaps has been the case in the past.

"The flip-side to this of course is that those events where we have posted success will be rewarded in turn. For example it is only proper that our Commonwealth medal-winning high hurdlers should have that success recognised with the chance to compete in big events on home soil."

Darren Campbell, the 2000 Olympic silver medallist, was the last 200m runner to reach a major final when finishing fourth at the 2003 World Championships. Since then, Britons have failed to figure in the finals of the 2004 Olympics, the 2005 World Championships and this year's Commonwealth Games, where Britain only got one man to the final - Marlon Devonish, who finished last - and compounded the air of gloom by mishandling the baton in the sprint relay semi-final. There is currently no male British 200m runner in the world's top 40 for 2006, Devonish being the highest ranked at 43rd with 20.76 sec.

The 110m hurdles at Gateshead will feature the Commonwealth champion Maurice Wignall, Scotland's silver medallist Chris Baillie and England's bronze medallist Andy Turner.

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