British duo focus on run-up to title test in Madrid

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The Independent Online

Mark Lewis-Francis and Chris Tomlinson will miss today's XVIII Jose M Cagigal Reunion International indoor meeting in Madrid. The pair have decided to concentrate their efforts on preparing for the three-day European Indoor Championships which begin at the same venue in the Spanish capital on 4 March.

Lewis-Francis, who was runner-up to Jason Gardener in the 60 metres in Vienna three years ago, believes he will get more value from training at home rather than competing in Spain.

Tomlinson, who defeated the world indoor long jump champion, Savante Stringfellow, in last Friday's Norwich Union Grand Prix in Birmingham, was eager to renew rivalry with the American. But a minor injury has seen him withdraw from a competition where he had hoped to better his UK indoor mark of 8.17m.

"It's nothing serious," said his coach, Peter Stanley. "He strained a muscle in his abdomen at Birmingham but is back in full training." As a precautionary measure in his build-up to the European Indoor Championships, Tomlinson has pulled out of Sunday's meeting in Lievin and also from warm-weather training in Lanzarote.

Kenya's world short course cross country champion, Edith Masai, looks set to miss out on her title defence next month in France. Masai, 37, twisted her right ankle while training earlier this month and missed the national trials.

"The leg is still bad and it looks highly unlikely that I will travel to France to defend my title," Masai said. "One can't force something to happen the way one wants. I can't risk running like this. It may improve but at this rate I highly doubt it," added Masai, who won the first of her three short course world titles in 2002.

Masai's world title last year was Kenya's only individual gold at the championships in Brussels, which were dominated by Ethiopia. Her likely withdrawal further complicates the east African nation's chequered preparations for this year's event in St-Etienne-St Galmier from 29 to 30 March.

Five athletes, including the world 5,000m champion, Eliud Kipchoge, have not reported to the national team's residential training camp in Embu on the foot of Mount Kenya, some 250km north-east of the capital Nairobi. Athletics Kenya extended the weekend deadline for athletes to report to the camp to yesterday evening.