Ladejo wins but loses respect

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The Independent Online
Du'Aine Ladejo, whose showmanship during the 400 metres relay in Saturday's McDonald's International overstepped the mark, will be told the error of his ways this week by Britain's team management.

The European indoor and outdoor champion, a naturally flamboyant character, caused disquiet with his antics on the last leg of the relay, which Britain won to secure overall victory against France.

In the final 200 metres, he repeatedly brandished his baton and in the final 30 metres appeared to be mocking his opponent, whom he had nearly, but not quite, allowed to catch him up.

These actions aroused some uneasy boos from the crowd. The thought also occurred that the huge lead which Ladejo had inherited, and squandered, had been earned through the efforts of three team-mates.

"I'm sure that Du'Aine himself will say: 'I was out of order'," Verona Elder, Britain's team manager, said. "I will just mention it to him and tell him that it's not the thing to do."

Earlier in the day, Ladejo had underlined his huge potential by winning the individual 400m by 10 metres in a time of 46.39sec. It was a long- awaited victory after missing the bulk of last year with an injury that was finally diagnosed as a trapped nerve. "It was very frustrating for me," he said. "It took just two sessions of acupuncture to sort the problem out, but by that time the season was over."

He is now clearly eager for the fray, and looks capable of retaining his indoor title in Stockholm in two weeks' time. That competition, he hopes, will also get him back into the rhythm of competing after his long absence.

Ladejo at least won one race last year. Sally Gunnell has had to wait even longer because of injury, and she relished the moment as she won the 400m in 53.26 - her first victory since she anchored the relay team at the World Cup in September 1994.

"That felt good," said Gunnell, who will return to South Africa on Friday for another training break, during which she intends to build on the speed- endurance she has already put in place this winter. "I've done the hard work," she said. "It's in the bank. The next thing is hurdling technique and speed."

When Britain's selectors meet tomorrow to choose their team for the European Indoor Championships, one of the few problems will be the 60m. With Jason Gardener a clear choice as the fastest Briton this season, among the contenders for the second place are Mike Rosswess, the 1994 European indoor bronze medallist, Darren Braithwaite, last year's world indoor silver medallist, and Jason John, who won the invitation 60m in Glasgow in 6.59, which put him fourth in the season's European rankings.

n Maria Mutola of Mozambique broke her own world 1,000m indoor record with a time of 2min 31.23sec in Stockholm yesterday. Mutola set her previous record of 2:32.08 two weeks ago in Birmingham.

n Michael Johnson, in his first race in five months, ran the fastest 400m, 45.32, in the world this year in Fairfax, Virginia, yesterday.

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