Tara helps to bring down the women's barriers

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The Independent Online

Tara Krzywicki's first attempt to make the international sporting grade came to grief at the penultimate hurdle. "I was long-listed for the European junior team as a three- day eventer," she said, recalling her youthful equestrian days. "But I fell off at the second to last fence in the trial at Windsor. The horse tripped up and I went straight in the water jump."

It is to be hoped a similar fate does not befall the multi-talented Krzywicki when she plays her part in history at Scotstoun Stadium in Glasgow a week today. The one-time equestrian hurdler will be using her own legs to clear the obstacles in the first international steeplechase for women. She has been picked to represent Great Britain against the United States and Russia in the barrier-breaking women's 3000m steeplechase that has been included on the programme of the Norwich Union Challenge match.

"I didn't realise it was the first international race," Krzywicki said. "I didn't expect it to be a match race until the selection letter came through. I thought it was just on the programme as an invitation event. The fact that it is part of the match means it's being taken seriously. I'm proud that I've been picked for it."

Not that it is Krzywicki's first international selection. She won six caps for Wales following in the footballing footsteps of her father, Dick, a flying winger who played for West Bromwich Albion in the 1970 League Cup final and scored past Gordon Banks in the Home International match between Wales and England at Ninian Park that year. She has also run for Britain three times in the world cross country championships.

It is as a two-legged steeplechaser that Krzywicki, who works as fitness adviser to the Notts Fire Service, has found her natural sporting vocation. She has won six of her seven races to date, though all but one of those have been 2,000m events. In her only 3,000m steeplechase, at Stretford last September, she set a Commonwealth record, 10min 8.11sec. In Glasgow she faces Elizabeth Jackson, a former ballet dancer, who improved her American record to 9min 49.73sec three weeks ago.

"It'll be great to get some really good competition," Krzywicki said. "It's difficult to tell what it's going to be like because I haven't really had people around me in the races I've done. It's a real trail blazer." It is indeed, although the trail will not lead to international championship recognition for some time. There will be a 3,000m steeplechase for women at the European Cup next year but to achieve Olympic status the event must first appear on the world championship programme and to do that it needs to be included on continental championship schedules.

Thus – unless the International Amateur Athletic Federation decide to hasten the process – Krzywicki cannot expect a tilt at a European title until 2006, a world championship until 2007 or an Olympic gold until 2008.

"It is frustrating," she said. "I was watching the Sydney Olympics thinking, 'God, there's only one event left that they haven't removed the barriers from us competing in, and it has to be the one I want to do'. I'm 27 now. I hope they get it sorted and I'm not too old to give it a good crack."

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