Athletics: Relay hero to hang spikes up for season

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Mark Lewis-Francis has pulled out of tonight's IAAF Golden League meeting in Brussels, exhausted after his winning performance in the Olympic 4x100 metre relay in Athens last week - and he may not compete again this season.

The former world junior 100m champion, who anchored Team GB to its sensational and unexpected victory ahead of the US last Sunday, is instead resting his tired body.

His manager, Ricky Simms, said: "Mark originally planned to run in Brussels, but he has had a massive programme of engagements since returning home and feels he wouldn't be anywhere near his best.

"I wouldn't be surprised if he called it a day for the rest of the season," said Simms. "He's also withdrawn from Rieti on Sunday and for the moment there's nothing planned."

After Brussels and Rieti, the only major meetings remaining on the European circuit take place when Berlin hosts the final IAAF Golden League meeting on 12 September.

The following weekend will see the curtain on the Olympic year's track and field programme come down in Monaco with the two-day World Athletics final.

Simms said: "I'm leaving everything for Mark to decide, but I can tell you apart from the tiredness he's really excited about the future after the relay success."

Like other British 100m and 200m sprinters, the 21-year-old Birmingham star failed to make the short sprint final in Greece's Olympic stadium.

But Jason Gardener, Darren Campbell, Marlon Devonish and Lewis-Francis showed that they really do have world class calibre with their marvellous win ahead of the highly-fancied American quartet. "I think the victory has really ignited the spark in Mark," said Simms.

Now Simms hopes Lewis-Francis, 22 on Saturday, will finally produce the form which has seen the leading US coach John Smith predict he can progress further and win a gold medal at the next Olympics.

Lewis-Francis may have to wait four years before another opportunity comes around, but in between the Olympic cycle there will be plenty of opportunities to gain top honours.

Next year Helsinki hosts the World Championships with Fukuoka in Japan staging the bi-annual event in 2007.

There will also be the opportunity for Lewis-Francis to star at the Commonwealth Games and European Championships in 2006.