Athletics: Radcliffe and Hansen back for European Cup

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The Independent Online

Ashia Hansen will join Paula Radcliffe in a strong British women's team for the European Cup, selectors announced yesterday.

Ashia Hansen will join Paula Radcliffe in a strong British women's team for the European Cup, selectors announced yesterday.

Radcliffe's inclusion in the team which will compete in the Polish city of Bydgoszcz on June 19-20 comes after confirmation of her recovery from a hernia operation in April. It will be the world marathon record holder's first outdoor appearance since winning European gold at 10,000m 22 months ago.

But Hansen's selection after being out since winning the world indoor triple jump title in Birmingham 15 months ago - save for one fleeting appearance in Birmingham this February - was a welcome surprise after her decision not to defend her world indoor title in Budapest in March.

"I wanted to be sure everything was right for the outdoors," she said. "Of course, I wished I had been there. But during the winter I also picked up a few niggles and a viral infection. My training has gone really well. I feel that I am now close to the form of 2002."

While Radcliffe will start favourite to win over 5,000 metres, Hansen faces a potentially much tougher task against Russia's Tatyana Lebedeva, who succeeded Hansen as world indoor champion in March and also bettered her six-year-old world indoor record three times, heads the opposition.

But Hansen has fully recovered from the Achilles injury which kept her out of last summer's World Championships, and will go straight into her fifth European Cup final, an event where she has never failed to win a medal. "I haven't prepared specifically for this competition and I don't know where exactly I am at," she said. "But everything is going as expected and my injury problems are behind me now.''

It will be Hansen's last competition before next month's Olympic trials in Manchester. She then intends appearing for Britain against the US in Birmingham on 25 July. She will complete her pre-Olympic training with an overseas international before heading off to the British Olympic Association's training camp in Cyprus on 4 August.

Radcliffe, named as the women's captain, said: "It is always a big thrill to run for your country and it is an honour to be captain again."

The selectors have kept their options open before finalising their team on Sunday. In the they will look at world indoor champion Jason Gardener, who starts his season in Erfurt, Germany, that day, and Mark Lewis-Francis, due to run in a sprint relay at the Bedford Games.

GREAT BRITAIN AND NORTHERN IRELAND TEAM for European Cup (19-20 June): MEN: 100/200m: To be confirmed. 400m: T Benjamin (Cardiff). 800m: J McIlroy (Abbey AC). 1500m: M East (Newham & Essex Beagles). 3,000m: C Thompson (Aldershot&Farnham). 5,000m: J Mayock (Barnsley). 110m hurdles: A Turner (Notts). 400m hurdles: C Rawlinson (Trafford). 3,000m s'chase: B Whitby (Windsor, Slough & Eton). High Jump: M Bernard (Sheffield). Pole Vault: N Buckfield (Crawley) Long Jump: C Tomlinson (Newham & Essex Beagles). Triple Jump: P Idowu (Belgrave) Shot: C Myerscough (Blackpool). Discus: C Myerscough (Blackpool). Hammer: M Jones (Belgrave). Javelin: N Nieland (Shaftesbury Barnet). 4x100m: Tbc. 4x400m: Tbc.

WOMEN: 100m: Tbc. 200m: A Oyepitan (Shaftesbury Barnet). 400m: Tbc. 800m: J Fenn (Woodford Green/Essex Ladies). 1500m: H Tullett (Swansea). 3,000m: J Pavey (Exeter). 5,000m: P Radcliffe (Bedford). 100m hurdles: S Claxton (Belgrave). 400m Hurdles: L Fairs (Trafford). 3,000m s'chase: T Brown (Coventry Godiva). High Jump: N Clark (Trafford). Pole Vault: Z Brown (Shaftesbury Barnet). Long Jump: tbc. Triple Jump: A Hansen (Birchfield). Shot: J Duncan (Woodford Green/Essex Ladies). Discus: P Roles (Sale). Hammer: L Shaw (Sale). Javelin: G Sayers (Belgrave). 4x100m: Tbc 4x400m: Tbc.

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