Athletics: Caines drops distance

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The Independent Online

Daniel Caines could have had the lead role in the 400 metres at the European Indoor Championships. Instead, he has chosen to play the British third man role in the 200m in Vienna.

Despite returning to the top of the world rankings in his specialist event with a winning 400m time of 46.06 seconds in the Norwich Union Indoor Grand Prix at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham on Sunday night, Caines has stuck by his declared intention not to contest the event at the continental competition, which opens in the Austrian capital a week on Friday. Having returned to racing only last month after recovering from a stress fracture, the Birchfield Harrier does not feel ready for three rounds of championship racing in three days.

Caines does, however, feel able to fill the breach as Britain's third string 200m man, after Christian Malcolm and Doug Turner, having blasted through his opening lap on Sunday is a stunning 20.83sec.

While the 22-year-old is unlikely to challenge for a medal at the shorter distance, the surprise appearance of his name in the team announced today will further boost the spirit of a squad destined to make up for the paltry return of just one gold and one bronze (courtesy of Jonathan Edwards and Dean Macey) from the World Championships in Edmonton last summer. There ought to be no shortage of precious metal in Vienna, even accounting for the absence of Caines from the event in which he struck gold at the World Indoor Championships in Lisbon last March.

Four other Britons lead the European indoor rankings in their specialist disciplines: Jason Gardener in the 60m, Malcolm in the 200m, Colin Jackson in the 60m hurdles and Nick Buckfield in the pole vault, courtesy of the unheralded 5.81m British record he set in the German backwater of Bad Segeberg 11 days ago. There are also several medal contenders farther down the order, notably Mark Lewis-Francis (ranked second at 60m), Turner (second at 200m), John Mayock (fourth at 3,000m), Catherine Murphy (fourth at 400m), Diane Allahgreen (fourth in the 60m hurdles), Ashia Hansen (sixth in the triple jump) and Janine Whitlock (sixth in the pole vault).

Five weeks into her first season as a senior athlete, Jenny Meadows is ranked 12th at 800m following her impressive run in Steffi Graf's failed world record attempt on Sunday. The 20-year-old Wigan Harrier finished fifth in 2min 3.35sec, 0.65sec inside the qualifying standard for Vienna.

Paula Radcliffe was not as successful in her clock-chasing efforts in Puerto Rico on Sunday, missing Liz McColgan's 10km world best road time by four seconds, though her time ­ 30min 43sec ­ bodes well for her marathon debut in London in April.