Athletics: Douglas brings rivals to heel

All the wounds of 2005 have yet to fully heal for Nathan Douglas, but the Oxford triple jumper took a positive step forward on the recovery road (and a hop and a jump, too) on day one of the Norwich Union AAA Indoor Championships in Sheffield yesterday.

Last summer Douglas ventured out to the third-longest jump in the world, a massive 17.64m at the outdoor AAA Championships in Manchester in July, but failed to get beyond the qualifying round when it mattered most, at the World Championships in Helsinki in August.

He underwent surgery to remove a bone spur on his left heel in September but was back on the winner's rostrum as a national champion again yesterday. The 23-year-old had to show some mettle to get there in the English Institute of Sport arena. He dropped to second place during the final round when his leading effort of 16.47m was eclipsed by a 16.49m jump from Nick Thomas of Woodford Green. Douglas responded with 16.55m on his last attempt, registering a second victory in seven days, having won in Bergen last weekend with 16.43m. Not that the Oxford City athlete was a happy man afterwards.

"I'm pretty disappointed with my form," Douglas confessed. "I'm struggling to find my rhythm, though I was starting to find it a bit at the end today.

"It has been a bit of a rush for me, starting back. I had the operation in September and I didn't start training again until December."

Douglas has chosen to aim for the World Indoor Champion-ships in Moscow next month, rather than travel to Australia for the Commonwealth Games. Kelly Sotherton, though, will be going for gold in Melbourne, and the Olympic heptathlon bronze medallist was in winning form yesterday. The Birchfield Harrier took the long jump title with an indoor personal best of 6.53m, beating Jade Johnson, back in action after suffering a prolapsed disc, by 18cm.

There was also a personal best for the winner of the men's 60m, Woodford's Tim Abeyie prevailing in 6.64sec and following in the footsteps of his coach, Linford Christie, a three-time winner of the event. The emerging Karen Harewood was in impressive form, too, leading from gun to tape to win her 800m heat in 2min 3.49sec. The 30-year-old Corby athlete ran her first track race only two years ago but stands fifth in the world indoor rankings for 2006.

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