Athletics: Gardener given chance to run for fourth 60m title

Jason Gardener has been given the chance to seek a fourth European Indoor 60m title next month despite finishing only seventh in the weekend's trials.

The 31-year-old sprinter known as the Bath Bullet was more like a blank at Sheffield on Sunday in a race where his training partners Craig Pickering and Ryan Scott, age 20 and 19 respectively, finished first and second to claim the two automatic places for the Championships in Birmingham from 2 to 4 March.

Gardener, who has recovered from a serious back problem, said after his disappointing run that he would be looking for a better performance in Saturday's Norwich Union Grand Prix at Birmingham before making any decisions about the European Indoors.

But having run the second quickest time by a Briton this season, 6.58sec, he was entitled to expect the selectors to offer him a place ahead of the athlete who finished third in the trial, Simeon Williamson.

Gardener was still suffering from a heavy cold in Sheffield and his coach, Malcolm Arnold, maintained after the race that he was "not well". Pickering, who leads this year's world rankings with a time of 6.55sec, insisted: "There's a lot more to come from Jason yet."

For Scott, who finished 0.06sec behind Pickering with a personal best of 6.64sec, these will be the second European Indoor Championships - his first being Madrid two years ago.

Among the other potential medallists named in the first wave of selections - the final names will be added on 24 February - are Nicola Sanders, who has the world's fastest 400m time of the year (50.60sec), triple jumpers Phillips Idowu and Nathan Douglas, high hurdler Andy Turner, European cross country champion Mo Farah, Commonwealth 5,000m silver medallist Jo Pavey and pentathlon pair Kelly Sotherton and Jessica Ennis.

Former world indoor triple-jump champion and record holder Ashia Hansen, back after a horrendous knee injury, will try to improve upon her trials distance of 13.68m at Saturday's Inter City final in Sheffield before deciding whether to challenge for another international medal.