Athletics: Malcolm determined to make up for lost time after traumatic illness

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The Independent Online

Christian Malcolm runs here this weekend in the Luigi Ridolfi stadium where, two years ago, he came within a fraction of defeating Greece's then Olympic 200 metres champion Konstantinos Kederis. But the swift return of the European Cup to the Tuscan capital will not offer the 26-year-old Welshman any sense of déjà vu.

After suffering a potentially fatal kidney failure on the eve of the Athens Olympics, Malcolm is now, to use his own phrase, "in different territory". The traumatic experiences of last summer have altered his outlook not just on running, but upon life itself.

"When something like that happens to you it makes you appreciate the things you have all the more," said Malcolm, who spent six days in hospital before, incredibly, managing to return to the track a week later and reach the semi-finals of the Olympic Games.

"I have definitely changed. And part of it was seeing the sprint relay boys get their Olympic golds as well. That brought the passion back for me. The last couple of years have been a waste, but I love running and all I want to do now is fulfil my potential."

That potential, memorably announced in winning the world junior 100 and 200m titles seven years ago, remains enormous. And Malcolm is looking for a good performance tomorrow in what will be his first championship action since his Athens runs to confirm that he is heading back to where he wants to be.

"I'm fully recovered from a medical point of view, but I was unable to train at 100 per cent until after Christmas," he said. "That's why I decided to miss the indoor season. I had to be very careful at the start because I was taking days to recover from sessions, and that's not normally me. Then I would have four or five good days and start feeling it again."

Malcolm's caution was understandable after the drama of an affliction which doctors have now put down to the effects of a virus.

"A week before I got to the Olympic holding camp in Cyprus I was in a lot of pain, and when I arrived it just got worse," Malcolm said. "We thought at first it might be a kidney infection, but then I had a scan and the kidneys had stopped working and started swelling up. It was acute renal failure, and it was scary, especially for my family."

The anxiety was particularly bad for Malcolm's mother, Yvonne, as his father Nigel had also suffered kidney failure 20 years earlier.

"He was very, very sick for a while and he needed a transplant," Malcolm said. "So she was worried that it might be the same thing all over again with me."

The medical verdict that the problem was not hereditary came as a huge relief all round, and now Malcolm is able to look forward with optimism to the next stage of his athletics life.

"My main goal is the 2008 Olympics," he said. "I want a medal there." Collecting his fourth European Cup title here would represent a significant step towards that aim.

For the first time in its history, the annual meeting extends over three days, allowing the 5,000m and 3,000m steeplechase competitors to run in the cool of the evening.

Realistically, third place would probably be good for Britain on their current form, with Germany expected to be challenged by France, who were winners when the 2002 Cup took place here.

Television Coverage: Today: 14.00-17.05, BBC1. Tomorrow: 14.50-17.30, BBC1.