Athletics: Gardener embarks on three-race week

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The Independent Online

The reigning European 60 metres champion, Jason Gardener, has set himself a demanding schedule which will feature three appearances against world-class opposition in a week.

Gardener, Europe's fastest-ever 60m runner on the boards, will line up in Glasgow on 24 January, with another stern test five days later in the German town of Erfut. Then he will travel down to Stuttgart and, 48 hours later, face the strongest 60m field assembled this year in the Sparkassen Cup meeting.

Organisers have flown in the United States sprinters Tim Harden and Coby Miller for the meeting and a good result against them will bolster Gardener's confidence before the World Indoor Championships in Budapest in March.

His agent, Robert Wagner, believes the best of Gardener will be seen this year. "He's injury-free and relishing working with Malcolm Arnold, who coached Colin Jackson throughout his marvellous career," Wagner said.

Gardener failed to make the British team for last summer's World Championships but, according to Wagner, this has made the indoor specialist even more determined to succeed outdoors.

The highly knowledgeable Austrian manager, who handled the careers of Jackson and the Olympic 400m hurdles gold medallist, Sally Gunnell, said: "Jason has put the disappointment of not getting to Paris completely out of his mind. You don't win a world indoor bronze medal then suddenly run out of form a few months later. The bottom line is he was carrying a back injury."

Wagner is adamant that Gardener will prove his worth and make the Great Britain team for the Olympics, saying: "We haven't seen the best of Jason. This is Olympic year and I'm sure his dedication and new-found enthusiasm working with Malcolm in Cardiff will produce positive results."