Athletics: Gardener sees sound start as route to title

More than any other sporting event, the 60 metres requires competitors to start well in order to be successful. Jason Gardener, who will seek his first global title in the short sprint two days from now at the World Indoor Championships in Budapest, knows that as well as anyone.

Last Friday week, at the Norwich Union Grand Prix in Birmingham, the 28-year-old was expected to maintain the pre-eminence he has established this season, but was distracted by a sequence of false starts that saw the American runner Coby Miller dispute his disqualification with the trackside referee.

When the field finally got underway, Gardener, as in a bad dream, failed to go with it, beginning his running from a standing start after recovering from what appeared to be a daze. "I thought the gun was going to go to call us back, but it didn't," he said at the time. "I came to Birmingham so geared up... after equalling my European record the Sunday before, but because of the false starts... I got caught out."

Gardener was in favour of the new ruling whereby one false start is allowed and thereafter anyone false starting again is disqualified. But now he has his doubts about how effective the change - which was introduced with television schedules in mind - has been in reducing delays.

"Maybe if you disallowed any false starts, as they do in swimming, that would eliminate the problem. Obviously every case is different, and if an athlete feels they have a case to argue they will. But maybe there should be fines in place if they turn out to be wrong. I would like to see information put up immediately on a big screen which would allow athletes to see their reaction time."

In the meantime, however, Gardener needs to concentrate on adding a world indoor gold to the bronze he won in Maebashi five years ago and his two European indoor titles.

Although Gardener, who equalled his European record of 6.46sec last month, has seven of the 10 fastest times this season, genuine challengers emerged at the weekend in the American national championships in Boston. Both Shawn Crawford, a former World Indoor 200m champion who won the US title in 6.47sec, and the runner-up John Capel, an Olympic 200m finalist, are capable of pushing Gardener to his limits.

"I will have to equal my personal best or better it to win the title," Gardener said. "But the most important thing for me is keeping dead still on those blocks, and then when the gun goes, that's when I go."

If he can do that, the rest should take care of itself.

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