Jackson on attack as Gunnell exits in tears

Mike Rowbottom on the saddening saga of Britain's world champions
Click to follow
The Independent Online
Sally Gunnell made a tearful withdrawal from what was to be her first British appearance this season, in Sheffield yesterday, thereby casting doubt upon her hopes of making any kind of appearance in next month's World Championships.

Gunnell, who announced last weekend that an Achilles tendon injury would prevent her defending her 400 metres hurdles title in Gothenburg, broke down and cried during a television interview as she described how a thigh injury had forced her to pull out of the 400m flat race.

"I first felt a pain behind my thigh last Thursday in training," she said. "I felt it go again while I was warming up, and I decided not to risk it. I will run again in Germany on Friday and Saturday - I still want to run the relay in Gothenburg."

Tony Ward, the British Athletic Federation spokesman, said: "There are no qualifying standards Sally has to meet. All she has got to do is show us she is OK between now and the opening of the championships." Before she can do that, however, Gunnell must hope for a swift recovery.

While one British world champion was tearful, another - Colin Jackson - was angry yesterday as he accused the BAF of effectively forcing him out of the World Championships. Jackson, who has ruled out defending his 110m hurdles title because of an injury to his adductor muscle, blamed the federation's selection policy for his decision. Had he not been obliged to prove his competitive fitness in Sheffield, he said, he would not have had to go through the strenuous training session on Friday, during which he aggravated his injury.

"If the federation had waited, I would have been fine," he said. "As world champion and world record holder I see no reason why they had to take such a hard line."

Jackson will receive treatment in Munich this week from the specialist who treated Linford Christie last week, Dr Hans Muller-Wolfarth. But even if all the injury problems were to clear up, Jackson is adamant that he will not compete in Gothenburg. "In the circumstances my brain is dead and I could not switch it on again in time.

"It would have been a red-hot race in Gothenburg. But for the demands of the British federation I would have been there. It is a bitter pill to swallow."

Had circumstances been different, he was asked, did he think he could retain his title? The reply was emphatic: "Yes."