Gunnell targets date for comeback race

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Athletics

Sally Gunnell is lined up to race in Britain for the first time for nearly 18 months at the AAA Indoor Championships in Birmingham on 3 to 4 February.

It would be a 400 metres to test her fitness and competitiveness before the Olympic season, in which she defends the 400m hurdles title in Atlanta. A race in Stuttgart on 4 February has also been pencilled in.

Jonathan Marks, a spokes- man for Gunnell, who is training in South Africa, said: "The likelihood is that it will be Birmingham, but a final decision has not yet been made."

Her last domestic appearance was in the World Cup at Crystal Palace in September 1994. She had to write off last year - and her defence of the world title in Gothenburg - because of a heel injury which later needed surgery. All that the British women's team captain managed was two low- key 400m races in Germany.

Gunnell, who will be 30 on the day of the hurdles semi-finals in Atlanta, was on crutches for a month before starting the long haul back to regaining fitness. "It's been a very frustrating time, but there was never a moment when I thought of giving up," she said. "I feel recharged and maybe, in one way, the injury was not such a bad thing."

Kenya's Peter Rono has revived his Olympic dreams eight years after winning the 1500m gold medal in Seoul and will return to competition next month.

Rono, who had virtually disappeared from the sport in recent years, will take part as a guest in a race at the Belgian national championships on 4 February before running the 1500m at an international meeting in Ghent on 7 February, according to the Ghent organiser, Wilfried Meert.

Meert said Rono, who will turn 29 five days before the Atlanta Games, had been working hard in recent months to prepare for his return. To qualify for Atlanta, Rono must first survive the testing pre-Olympic trials in Kenya which, Meert said, were likely to take place in late June.

n The Hungarian middle-distance runner Sandor Iharos, who set 11 world records, died yesterday of heart failure in Budapest at 65. From May 1955 to July 1956, Iharos set records at 3,000m (7min 55.6sec), two miles (8:33.4), 1500m (3:40.8), 5,000m (13:40.6), three miles (13:14.2), six miles (27:43.8) and 10,000m (28:42.8). Iharos never won an Olympic medal and missed the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne because of the Soviet Union's invasion of Hungary.

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