Late withdrawal ends Jarrett's indoor season

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Tony Jarrett's indoor season has been brought to a premature close by a back injury which yesterday forced him to withdraw from today's McDonald's International in Glasgow.

Jarrett would have been one of Britain's strongest contenders for a European indoor title in Stockholm next month, but he has decided, reluctantly, that he cannot afford to risk disrupting his preparation for this summer's Olympic Games.

"He is disappointed," said Jarrett's coach, Mike McFarlane, "because he has been feeling much better in the last few days. But the decision had to be made. I left it to him in the end - but it is quite easy to do it this year because of the Olympics. People are a lot more cautious about injury and so you don't have to to tell them."

It is nevertheless a particularly unfortunate turn of events for the world 110 metres hurdles bronze medallist, who - in the absence of his perennial British rival, Colin Jackson - appeared to have an excellent chance of earning a bit of glory for himself over 60m hurdles in Stockholm.

Although he had not been entirely satisfied with his recent form, which he felt had been adversely affected by the hangover from a month's altitude training in South Africa, he gave an indication of his potential when he beat the world outdoor and indoor champion, Allen Johnson, in Birmingham two weeks ago. Five days after that victory, however, he aggravated an old back injury while lifting weights.

Andy Tulloch is in the 60m hurdles as Jarrett's reserve in a match with France which looks like being closely contested.

Jarrett's dilemma is shared by Scotland's European Cup winner, Melanie Neef, who will decide this morning whether she is fit enough to compete on the Kelvin Hall track where she made her 400m breakthrough in January 1994. The Paisley-born athlete, who is due to run the 200m in front of her home crowd, is carrying an abdominal injury which may also put her out of the European Indoors as well as today's match.

"It is not worth causing a problem in Olympic year," she said. "But I would be very upset if I had to pull out of the European indoors because that's where I could make another breakthrough."

Neef is another of Britain's potential medallists in Stockholm. She lowered her Scottish indoor record to 52.50sec earlier this month in winning the AAA indoor 400m title ahead of Sally Gunnell - who was making her return to competition after long-term injury - and both she and her coach believe she is capable of running around a second faster indoors this season.

Gunnell, meanwhile, will continue her comeback in a 400m today which looks like being one of the match's closest events. Both her French opponents - Marie-Louise Bevis and Evelyne Elien - have run under 53 seconds indoors this season; that territory is where Gunnell wants to be in a year when she will seek to retain her Olympic 400m hurdles title.

Her presence, and that of a Scottish crowd, may inspire Edinburgh's Allison Curbishley to improve upon the personal best of 53.52 she set behind Gunnell at the AAA indoors.

John Regis, disqualified for stepping outside his lane at Lievin last Sunday in the 200m race where Frankie Fredericks lowered the world record to 19.92, has the opportunity to get back on track in the 200m where he faces the fast-improving Welshman, Doug Turner. There was a faint consolation for Regis in Lievin - his time was unofficially estimated as being around 20.50, close to his personal best.

Personal rivalry between Britons appears likely to dominate the men's 400m and high jump events. In the former Mark Hylton, narrowly beaten by the European champion, Du'Aine Ladejo, in Birmingham two weeks ago, has the opportunity to reverse that result. In the latter competition, the meeting of Dalton Grant and Steve Smith may threaten Smith's British season's best of 2.36m.