Idowu sets target of Olympic gold and world record

Just in case anyone was still in any doubt, Phillips Idowu clarified his status as British athletics' leading Beijing contender here yesterday, declaring after an imperious triple jump victory at the Aviva Olympic trials that he was aiming to win gold in China and break the world record. Although not necessarily in that order.

For other key figures in the domestic scene, however, there was only uncertainty. The world marathon record holder, Paula Radcliffe, back into tentative training following recovery from a stress fracture of her thigh, will undergo a series of scans at the British Olympic Medical Centre at Northwick Park before re-assessing her progress.

And while Dean Macey struggled to finish a decathlon in Hexham that left him contemplating the possibility of retirement, a number of other familiar figures – including the Athens heptathlon bronze medallist Kelly Sotherton, world 400 metres silver medallist Nicola Sanders and Olympic sprint relay gold medallist Marlon Devonish – left Birmingham with important questions still to be answered.

Idowu, who won with 17.59 metres, said the mark of 18.29m that stands to his former team-mate Jonathan Edwards was within his scope, adding: "It doesn't matter if I achieve it before or at the Olympics. I still have the aim to win the Games. Jonathan has said in the past that if anyone is capable of the world record then I am and I believe that, too. I have the benefit of knowing what it took him to get there.

"In Olympic year people lose their minds and people come out of woodwork, but I'm not expecting someone to come out of the woodwork. Whatever anyone does, hopefully I'm in good enough shape to respond.

"I can probably put another 80cms to a metre on to what I'm doing," said the 29-year-old world indoor champion, "so 18.40 is not beyond my capabilities. If I nail one right and run through the way I can do and complete my jump properly it's not a problem.

"I need to remain injury-free and keep progressing and you'll see something special," he said, adding that he was hoping for "a massive jump" at the Aviva London Grand Prix on 25-26 July. "It could be something serious," he said. "Keep your eyes open and if the conditions are right then there will be something special.

"I did enough today to make sure I get on the plane. I'm in great shape. It's comfortable and I'm loving it. I'm having fun. I didn't feel any added pressure. I just go out and do what I've been doing all year, jumping big distances and winning. I wanted to come and win by half a metre. That was my ambition. I'm comfortable being British No 1. That's the way I need to be."

Sotherton, Britain's sole medal hope in the heptathlon now that Jessica Ennis is out with a broken ankle, endured an underwhelming weekend, following up Saturday's disappointing performances in the high jump and shot putt with two more low-key outings in the long jump and javelin. In the first event, where she finished second, two centimetres behind an equally grumpy Jade Johnson, with 6.28m, she had to take an early leave for fear of exacerbating a thigh injury.

"I tore my quad a couple of weeks ago so pulling out of the long jump was precautionary"' she said. "Hopefully there is nothing to worry about."

Thankfully, she was still in shape to contest the javelin, her bogey event. She could only throw 34.31m, but it was her best for three years. "This has been my worst ever year for injuries and setbacks," she added.

Sanders, back in action this season after a knee injury, had to withdraw from the 400m on Friday after experiencing a "niggle" while warming up for her heat, while Devonish announced after finishing a disappointed seventh in the 100m final that he was pulling out of the 200m because of a virus. In his absence, Christian Malcolm returned to form with victory in 20.53sec, an Olympic qualifying mark, just ahead of another likely traveller to China, Alex Nelson.

For some of Britain's brightest young things, however, the weekend was full of encouragement. On Saturday Greg Rutherford produced one of the performances of the meeting by winning the long jump in an Olympic qualifying mark of 8.20m, a win he dedicated to his grandfather, who was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer.

The 19-year-old Bow athlete Perry Shakes-Drayton pushed her Olympic claims with a hugely promising victory in the 400m hurdles while, in Bydgozcz, Poland, 18-year-old Steph Twell won the world junior 1500m title in 4min 15.09sec, with Emma Pallant taking bronze in 4.15.09.

"I came here to win it and I did it," said Twell, who is likely now to be named in the British team that will be announced today.

* The former world 100m record holder Asafa Powell will be out of action for a fortnight having pulled out of this week's Golden League meeting in Paris.

* Jamaica’s Usain Bolt ran the fastest 200 metres of the year at the Athens Grand Prix yesterday. The 21-year-old clocked 19.67 seconds – the fifth fastest time ever over the distance

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When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
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