Athletics: Jackson delays decision to run in Vienna

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The Independent Online

There were three leading lights in the finale to the Norwich Union AAA Indoor Championships in Cardiff on Sunday. When the first wave of selections for next month's European championships were announced yesterday, however, the third man was conspicuously absent.

It just happens that Colin Jackson wants to enter the film industry, as a writer and producer, when he finally draws an end to an international track career that has run for 16 years. So perhaps it is not entirely surprising that, like Orson Welles before him, the Peter Pan of the sprint hurdles has chosen to linger in the shadows before committing himself to an appearance in Vienna.

While Jason Gardener and Mark Lewis-Francis, the first and second men in the gripping 60m final in Cardiff, have been confirmed in the British team for the continental championships in the Austrian capital on 1 to 3 March, Jackson has decided to keep himself under wraps – for the time being, at least.

After easing to victory in the 60m hurdles final on home ground on Sunday night, the Cardiffian spoke of challenging for a fourth European indoor crown in Vienna and of getting himself into "low 7.40sec shape" for the event. The morning after, though, the team selectors announced that he had "asked not to be named at this stage".

Max Jones, the performance director of UK Athletics, said: "Colin will make his decision, as to whether he wishes to be considered for selection for Vienna, after a couple more races in Europe in the coming week."

Jackson's sudden hesitation might have something to do with the emergence of Elmar Lichtenegger as a serious contender for the European crown. The 27-year-old Austrian beat the 34-year-old Welshman in Erfurt on Friday and proved it was no fluke with a victory in the same impressive time, 7.51sec, at the Sparkassen meeting in Stuttgart on Sunday.

The pair meet in Stockholm tomorrow night with Lichtenegger suddenly scenting the prospect of a home win in Vienna – and thanking Jackson for his sudden rise. "I have been doing short periods of training with Colin in the past two years," he said. "It has taken me a while to put what I have learned into practice, but now it seems I have everything right."

Not quite as right as Svetlana Feofanova has in the pole vault, though. The 21-year-old Russian cleared 4.71m in Stuttgart, eclipsing Stacy Dragila's indoor world record by a centimetre. She now faces the American in Stockholm.

The Swedish event also pits Lewis-Francis against Morne Nagel, the South African who jointly leads the world rankings for 60m with the American Tim Montgomery, both having run 6.48sec. Lewis-Francis recorded 6.53sec in Cardiff on Sunday, losing to Gardener by a margin declared as 0.01sec but measured by the photo-finish equipment as 0.002. The teenager will be looking to close the gap when the pair meet for a re-match in Ghent on Sunday.