Jackson pushed to heights

Jarrett turns on the pressure as Britain cruise to a comfortable victory over a weakened French team
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The Independent Online
Reinforced by the appearances of Linford Christie and a defeat- chastened Colin Jackson, Britain's indoor athletics team achieved a comfortable 155-122 win over a weak French team at the Kelvin Hall yesterday. Christie and Jackson won as expected but Tony Jarrett put so much pressure on Jackson that he had to set the fastest 60 metres hurdles time of the year in order to be victorious.

Jackson had his first setback in 18 months in Madrid last Thursday when beaten by the American Allen Johnson in what was actually a blanket finish decided only by the judge's view of a still photograph. It was his first defeat in 43 races, but both Johnson and Jarrett are going to give him more competition this season than expected.

Yesterday Jarrett forced him to a time of 7.39sec. Jackson seemed to have the race under control but Jarrett dipped low at the finish to bring a moment's doubt. However, it will do Jackson no harm to know that he is unlikely to be able to relax in any of his races against his compatriot this season.

Appearing for the first time in Britain this season, Christie was hardly in need of Olympian form to win the 60 metres in a time of 6.56sec, easily holding off Sebastien Carrat. It was the second-fastest time in the world this year after the 6.55sec set by Donovan Bailey of Canada. It also suggested that the British captain's preparation for the summer is moving smoothly. His outdoor performances in Australia this winter have been impressive. He came back with the England cricket team and even that has seemed to do him no harm. Now he is committed to running another indoor meeting in Birmingham in a fortnight and in Vienna this Saturday. Even so, he has confirmed that he is not interested in running the world indoor championships in Barcelona next month. "I'm aiming everything at the outdoor championships," he said yesterday.

He was far from happy with his time, but refused to blame what for him was an everyday performance on his travelling. "No problem, I could sleep on a tightrope." He even seems to need more challenges. "I'm planning more 200 metre races this season. I've been working out with Frankie Fredericks and I'm aiming to get under 20 seconds this season," he said. "The 10.11 time in Australia was pretty easy, but so was today. I can go a lot faster."

Sooner or later this season John Regis seems certain to break the indoor 200 metres world best time of 20.36sec held by Bruno Marie-Rose. It may come in Lievin in France next weekend. Yesterday he was again a powerful, dominating winner in 20.67sec, beating the reinstated Solomon Wariso, now back in international competition after his three months drugs suspension and fit enough to run a remarkable 400 metres relay leg of 46sec.

Eighteen-year-old Mark Hylton, who only came to prominence a week ago when he won the AAA championship in Birmingham in a personal best of 46.56sec looked equally controlled and confident yesterday when passing both Frenchmen, David Divad and Jacques Farraudiere over the last 10 metres of his debut 400 metres for Britain to win in 47.06sec.

Hylton's main aim this season is the European Junior Championships in which he hopes to emulate a long line of fine British 400 metres runners, who have won that title for the past five years. But now he has also beaten the world indoor championship qualifying time twice in seven days and will have to come into consideration for a team place. "I just felt that the Frenchmen were dying over the last part of the race," Hylton said, which showed a sense of tactics ahead of his international experience.

Melanie Neef continued her promising indoor season with another 400 metres win, but whereas at the AAA championships she set a Scottish record of 52.82sec, yesterday she was "very disappointed" with 53.67sec after being challenged by Marie-Louise Bevis, who came back at her over the later part of the race. Nevertheless in the absence of Sally Gunnell, who has a slight heel injury, Neef was a popular local winner and she is seen in Scotland as a future golden girl who could even eventually take Gunnell's mantle. This season she has broken Scottish records at 60, 200 and 400 metres.

Hopes that Britain had discovered some new fairy-story wonder girl in the 800 metres were put in perspective when Abigaile Hunte, who came over from the United States for a holiday and won the AAA title last weekend, found that running in a more demanding international match was too much to expect. The Forest Gate-born athlete who graduated from Villanova University was a distant third to Patricia Djate-Taillard (2min 02.99sec) and Britain's Sonya Bower (2:o4.83). But if there was no dream debut, there was at least the sight of Tom McKean battling back after injuries. The middle distance runner showed signs of recovery by winning the 1500 metres, though he refuses to consider defending his world indoor title.