Gunnell hopeful of going to Atlanta

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The Independent Online
Grey cloud drifted down over the mountains around Lausanne yesterday but for Sally Gunnell, who had spent the night wondering whether her Olympics were over before they had started, the sun came out.

Gunnell, who pulled up traumatically during Wednesday's grand prix 400 metres hurdles, learned that her problem was no more than an inflamed heel which will require a week's rest. She will not, as she had feared, require an operation similar to the one she underwent on her other heel before Christmas.

"It's great news," said Gunnell, who had looked drawn and distracted the previous night after sharp pain had caused her to slump to the track before the seventh hurdle. "There is nothing major wrong with me and there is no reason why I can't solve the problem."

Gunnell travelled 100 miles from Lausanne yesterday morning to Magglingen, where she visited the mountain clinic of the doctor who had performed her operation, Roland Biedert. After undergoing a scan, she was given an injection in her heel and told she could resume training in a week's time. "Sally has a good chance of competing in Atlanta," said Dr Biedert, who was on duty for the Swiss football team during Euro 96. "The next week will show how it turns out."

Having returned to hurdling after a 20-month absence in May, Gunnell needed as much racing as possible to make up lost ground on her rivals. But she has had to cancel her last planned competition before the Olympics, at Padua on Sunday, and will have to trust she has done enough work already to challenge in Atlanta.

"I have to go out there, put my feet on the line and give it everything and hope that everything is OK," she said. "I still have a chance of the gold. I'm due a bit of luck and maybe Atlanta is where I will find it."

As expected Gunnell's race in Lausanne was dominated by the American pair who ran inside her world record at last year's World Championships, with Tonya Buford, silver medallist in Gothenburg, defeating Kim Batten in 53.61sec.

Buford said earlier in the week that the event was "passing Gunnell by". If Gunnell required any extra motivation in her efforts to regain peak fitness, that remark should supply it.

The experience of Lausanne was testing rather than traumatic for Britain's other Olympic champion. Having lost there over 100 and 200m, Linford Christie proceeds to the Bislett Stadium in Oslo tonight to put himself on the line again against a 100m field that includes the US trials winner, Dennis Mitchell.

Despite his defeats, which came two days after he had finally committed himself to defending his Olympic title, Christie maintained a cheerful countenance. "The serious business starts in Atlanta," he said with a grin. With best times of 10.04 and 20.04 this year, he is running as fast at this stage of the season as he did in his Olympic year of 1992, or his World Championship of 1993.

As then, others are running faster. He has to make the calculations about how that gap will narrow over rounds of running in Atlanta. And he as much as anyone will be listening with interest as to whether Frankie Fredericks, 0.01sec off the 100m world record of 9.85 on Wednesday, chooses to double up.

Fredericks, who reduced the indoor 200m record to 19.92 this year, takes on the new outdoor 200m world record holder, Michael Johnson, tonight, while Noureddine Morceli takes part in a Dream Mile that has been restored to the Oslo programme after a gap of two years.

For Roger Black, who lowered his British 400m record by 0.02 to 44.37 behind Johnson in Lausanne, the only immediate concern after the race was to seek out a doping test so that his new mark could be ratified.

It was a satisfactory night of 400m running for Britain all round. Mark Richardson and Jamie Baulch's performances in the B race established them as fourth and fifth respectively in the all-time British lists with 44.52 and 44.57. Iwan Thomas also lowered his sea-level best to 44.71 in Black's race.