Thomas eyes one-lap supremacy

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The Independent Online

Iwan Thomas claims he has the ability to take over Michael Johnson's mantle as the world's leading 400m runner. With the once-dominant American retired and Thomas returning to full fitness, the Welshman has prescribed an extended winter training period in South Africa on his way to the World Championship title in Edmonton in August.

Iwan Thomas claims he has the ability to take over Michael Johnson's mantle as the world's leading 400m runner. With the once-dominant American retired and Thomas returning to full fitness, the Welshman has prescribed an extended winter training period in South Africa on his way to the World Championship title in Edmonton in August.

The British record-holder will leave for an eight-week spell of intensive training at the beginning of January, convinced he can return to and even surpass the form which brought him the 1998 European and Commonwealth gold medals. He said: "With Michael Johnson retired from championship competition the world title race will be wide open."

The 26-year-old saw injury put his career on hold for almost two years. But the damaged ankle which restricted him to running in just the 4x400m relay at the Olympic Games is now completely healed. He is now determined to re-establish himself on the world stage and stressed: "I know I can do it."

Thomas had a disagreement with the British selectors after they failed to hold an individual slot for him to prove his fitness before the Games started in Sydney. He now accepts their decision was probably correct but as a discontented spectator he admitted wincing - Johnson excepted - at the quality of the Olympic 400m final.

Thomas, whose British record stands at 44.36 seconds, said: "Yes, the selectors' decision was probably the right one. But it doesn't make it any easier. Look at the time I did in Birmingham in 1997 - it would have got me the silver medal."

Just watching from trackside at Stadium Australia convinced Thomas he can become the successor to Johnson, who has dominated the one-lap distance for almost a decade.

Recalling the Olympic final, he said: "To be brutally honest a fit Iwan Thomas out there would have got a silver medal or a bronze, so I'm gutted. But I can't control when I get injured. I probably did the right thing by missing the individual race, although 45.3 made the final, which I think is a weak standard.

"Now I'm more determined than ever. I'm the only person I know who was looking forward to winter training. I only took 10 days' rest after two years off and I'm already in good shape so far. I've never gone into a winter so fit.

"I'm going to get my head down when I'm in South Africa. I'm there for eight weeks and I've every intention of running some good times."

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