Jackson aspires to the title set

OLYMPIC GAMES: Derek White reports on two British hurdlers who display the fighting spirit
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The Independent Online
Colin Jackson believes his injury nightmare is finally behind him as he prepares to try to fulfil his lifelong ambition of capturing an Olympic gold medal.

The 29-year-old Welshman has been dogged by injuries in the past two seasons after ruling the world in 1993 when he broke the world record to win the 110m hurdles at the world championships. Jackson conceded his world title, due to injury, to America's Olympic favourite Allen Johnson before hitting a losing streak this season because of a knee problem.

Jackson, who finished seventh in Barcelona after his medal bid was shattered by a stomach-muscle strain, says he is fighting fit and raring to go for gold when heats begin today.

"The knee injury was giving me a lack of speed," Jackson, who has yet to win a Grand Prix race this year, said. "But that's been cleared up now. And there is nothing wrong with my technique over the hurdles. The track in Atlanta is very fast and I'm looking forward to going out there. I believe I'm now in good enough shape to be close to taking the title."

Jackson, favourite for gold in 1992, added: "What happened in Barcelona is the biggest disappointment of my career. It took a long time to get over. Winning an Olympic title would be the last piece of the puzzle for me. It's important to me that I am world indoor record-holder and world outdoor record-holder.

"I was world champion, European indoor champion and I'm still European outdoor champion and Commonwealth Games champion. Anything but Olympic champion."

Jackson knows he will have to overcome the latest breed of American sprint hurdlers intent on restoring US domination. American superiority was shattered when Jackson's Canadian-born training partner Mark McKoy took advantage of his friend's injury to win the Olympic title in Barcelona. Jackson knocked Roger Kingdom off the top of the all-time list with his winning run of 12.91sec in Stuttgart - though even that is now coming under threat from the new American hurdling hero.

Allen Johnson was just 0.01sec outside the mark when he won the US Olympic trials in the Centennial Games stadium last month. Johnson has beaten Jackson in their three previous meetings this season and will start favourite for gold, while fellow American Mark Crear will also be a dangerman. He missed last year's world championships after failing to make the final in the US trials, but has won six Grand Prix races.

Sally Gunnell will run through the pain barrier today, showing the commitment she believes could bring the British Olympic team to the boil. The defending 400m hurdles champion has suffered badly through injuries over the past two seasons. Last year she was stuck on the sidelines with a heel injury as the American Kim Batten stole not just Gunnell's world title in Gothenburg, but also her world record.

Even when she seemed back on the comeback trail last month, the injury jinx struck again as Gunnell sustained an inflamed tendon in Lausanne, hobbling away and fearing the worst. That injury has not completely cleared up - pain is still a factor when she runs - but after two-and-a-half weeks at the British team training camp in Tallahassee, Gunnell arrived in Atlanta determined to win gold.

"Perhaps I ought just to be grateful to be here, but I've always had that desire to achieve things, and I'd never be satisfied with just turning up," said Gunnell, who turns 30 tomorrow. Gunnell also accepts that her role as captain of the women's team means she is under more pressure to deliver the goods, but is happy to be a role model.