Edwards wary despite absence of top Cubans

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The Independent Online

Jonathan Edwards believes the absence of the top Cuban jumpers at the IAAF Permit Meeting in Milan tonight will not detract from the excitement of the event.

The British triple-jumper expects tough opposition from Italy's Fabrizio Donato and Paolo Camossi, who can also count on feverish home support. Last year's meeting saw Donato triumph in an Italian record 17.60 metres before fading badly and not even qualifying for the Olympic final, whereas Camossi reached the final but finished eighth.

But in this spring's world indoor championships, Camossi produced a personal best 17.32m for a surprise win. Edwards is therefore expecting a stiff challenge, even with the confidence gained from a 17.53m leap in windy Bangor at the weekend. The Olympic gold medallist and world record-holder said: "The top Cubans might be missing but I am under no illusions, I will get a tough time.

"I didn't jump in Milan last year but by all accounts it was a fabulous meeting with first Camossi and then Donato smashing the long-standing Italian record. I hadn't really heard of Donato until then and he did fade later in the summer.

"But Camossi had a good year and at the world indoors got in the big one that mattered to beat me. Yes, I think with the crowd behind them and their own fierce rivalry they'll be highly motivated."

Edwards will also be keeping a close eye on British rivals Larry Achike and Phillips Idowu, who finished fifth and sixth respectively in the Olympic final during a year in which his likely successors as British No 1 emerged into true world-class performers.

Idowu currently leads the world rankings while Achike made his best start to any year when clearing 16.96m in February. There will be an added incentive for all three Britons with the side for the European Cup final later this month, being announced next Tuesday.

And Achike, the winner at Gateshead last June, and Idowu have no intention of allowing their more illustrious countryman automatic selection. "That's the way it should be," claimed Edwards. "I'm sure the selectors will pick the best man for the job, the one who can claim maximum points ­ and with my record that seems likely to be me. But I wouldn't expect to be guaranteed the place."

Katharine Merry and Kelly Holmes, the Olympic 400m and 800m bronze medallists, also get down to the real business of racing in preparation for August's World championships in Edmonton. Merry showed she was in form last Saturday with a 51.5 second relay leg and she should cope comfortably with the opposition on offer.

Chris Rawlinson, who made his 400m breakthrough on the international scene at last year's event with victory over world champion Fabrizio Mori, and 1500m runners Allen Graffin and Michael Openshaw also participate.

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