Athletics: Gardener looking to improve outdoor record

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The Independent Online

Jason Gardener, Britain's reigning European indoor 60 metres champion, returns to the boards on 24 January as Britain's representative in the Norwich Union International at Glasgow's Kelvin Hall.

Gardener, coached by Malcolm Arnold, who guided the fortunes of the world high hurdles record-holder, Colin Jackson, has established an outstanding indoor record over recent years, having won the European title twice and taken two bronze medals at the World Indoor Championships.

This season's task for the Bath athlete, as it has been every year, is to translate his outstanding start and smooth technique into a successful outdoor season, and there can be no more crucial year to attempt that than Olympic year.

Julian Golding, who returned from three years out with illness and injury to win last year's World Championships trials and outdoor AAA Championships at 200m, is offered an early opportunity to maintain his comeback following a disappointing performance in Paris last August.

The competition also offers the Commonwealth 1500m champion, Michael East, an opportunity to assess his form with a run over 3,000m. East was given a vote of confidence by Britain's World Championships selectors, who offered him a place on the basis of a B qualifying standard despite the fact that other more experienced athletes had the A standard. East narrowly failed to make the final, but will hope that, following his successful outings at the 2002 Commonwealth Games and European Championships, he has already amassed the big-event experience that will prove beneficial for an Olympic campaign.

Kelly Holmes, who earned indoor and outdoor versions of the world silver medal last season, will make her first appearance of 2004 in the 1500m, while Helen Karagounis has an individual run over 400m.