Gunnell off her marks with a race in Rome

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The Independent Online
Sally Gunnell, set on defending the world 400 metres hurdles title in Gothenburg this summer, will open her season in Italy next month rather than competing for Essex Ladies at the European Club Championships in Belfast.

Gunnell, who missed the indoor season because of an Achilles tendon injury, will seek a fast 400m time in warm conditions on 2 June rather than risking the potentially colder climate in Northern Ireland a week earlier. Her first race over hurdles will come on 8 June at the Rome Grand Prix.

Gunnell and Roger Black, who, after an extended and thankfully injury- free training period in California, plans his first 400m at Granada, Spain on 27 May, were in London yesterday to help launch the TSB Rankings.

The first national scheme of its kind will rank the top 100 senior male and female athletes, and the top 1,000 in each of the three junior age groups.

Performances in different disciplines will be evaluated using an adapted version of the Hungarian scoring tables currently used to separate athletes tied for points in the International Amateur Athletics Federation grand prix series.

The rankings offer no prize- money, and will not be a factor in selection for championships. Their main benefit is likely to be to junior athletes who will be able to gauge their performances within a national context. The system will also allow them to compare their achievements with established athletes at the same age.