Sanders delights injury-hit Britons

Amersham 400 metre runner roars to victory as Ohuruogu heads list of absentees in race to be fit for world championships
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The Independent Online

Sadly for British athletics, there have been more broken bodies than records on the domestic front in the run-up to the World Championships, which open in Berlin three weeks today.

As the showpiece event of the track season got underway here in the southern suburbs of the English capital last night, the two-day Aviva London Grand Prix, injury had already ruled several leading lights out of the reckoning for Britain's team in Berlin.

The Great Britain squad will be announced on Tuesday but the list of notable absentees from the roster will include Mara Yamauchi, the world No 2 in the marathon this year; Tasha Danvers, the Olympic 400m hurdles bronze medal winner in Beijing; and Kelly Sotherton, the 2004 Olympic heptathlon bronze medallist. The list will also be minus Tim Benjamin, the 400m runner having last week given up his long, losing battle against injury and announced his retirement at the age of 27.

There are doubts, too, about the fitness of Paula Radcliffe, the marathon world record holder, and Christine Ohuruogu, the Olympic, world and Commonwealth 400m champion. Ohuruogu, Britain's only track gold medal winner at the world championships in Osaka two years ago and at the Olympic Games in Beijing last summer, had been due to run in the one-lap event at the Palace last night – that was until a hamstring problem jolted her preparations for Berlin, and also ruled her out of last week's Golden League meeting in Paris.

The Londoner's coach, Lloyd Cowan, has rated her chances of making it to the start line for the heats in the Olympiastadion as only "50-50" and it would be a major blow for the British team – and the new head coach of UK Athletics, Dutchman Charles Van Commenee – were Ohuruogu to lose her battle for fitness. Nonetheless, it was a timely boost to see Nicola Sanders on the start line for the women's 400m last night.

The Amersham woman missed world championship gold in the event by the tantalising margin of 0.04sec in Osaka two years ago, taking silver behind the fast-finishing Ohurguou. Last summer, while her British team-mate and rival added Olympic gold to her expanding medal collection, Sanders was plagued by injuries all season and was knocked out at the semi-final stage in Beijing.

This summer the slenderly built former hurdler has been hampered by an ankle problem. Still, she showed an impressive turn of speed at an invitation meeting at Rethymino in Crete last Monday, winning in 51.21sec. That placed the 27-year-old second in the British rankings, just behind Ohuruogu, who ran 51.14 at a meeting in the Parisian suburbs last month.

Last night Sanders was in winning form again. Roared down the straight by a capacity 16,000 home crowd, she held off Shana Cox of the US to win by 0.02 in 51.54. "The time's not great, but it's nice to get another win," she said. "It was hard work into the wind in the home straight."

This afternoon's programme features another budding Briton on the comeback trail. Fourth in the Olympic 1500m final in Beijing, Lisa Dobriskey has since been hamstrung by a stress fracture to her lower back. Last weekend she returned to action with a winning run in Lucerne and today she lines up for the metric mile against a strong domestic field.

One of the three available places at the distance in the British team for Berlin has already been claimed by Charlene Thomas, who judged her tactics to perfection in sprinting past Steph Twell and Hannah England to victory at the trials meeting in Birmingham two weeks ago. Thomas, a 27-year-old member of Wakefield Harries has never run in a Great Britain vest nor had a penny in Lottery funding.

A supply teacher in woodwork and metalwork in West Yorkshire, she tests her form against Dobriskey, Twell and England in this afternoon's race. "I can't say how much I've wanted this," Thomas said, having secured her first major championship selection. "I've have never had a GB vest. I've had an English one but a British one is a dream for me. I've had no funding whatsoever. It's been hard. I have to get up at 5.30am to get my running in before work and then train again in the evenings."

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