Local pride at stake as Black faces rivals

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The Independent Online
Britain's surplus of riches in 400 metres running will be on display at Crystal Palace tonight in the Securicor Games, the final domestic meeting before the Olympic Games.

Roger Black, who has reduced the UK record to 44.37sec this season, will take on the four other leading domestic competitors in Du'Aine Ladejo, Iwan Thomas, Jamie Baulch and Mark Richardson.

While Ladejo and Thomas took the other two individual team places behind Black at the Olympic trials, Richardson and Baulch have run 44.52 and 44.57 respectively to establish themselves at fourth and fifth in the British all-time lists. Local pride will be at stake - but in the absence of the world champion Michael Johnson, who is considering legal action after being offered a run in the 200m rather than the 400, two other Americans threaten to make life difficult for the Brits.

Derek Mills has a season's best of 44.51, while Darnell Hall, the world indoor champion, defeated both Mills and Thomas in Lausanne last week.

Allen Johnson, America's world 110m hurdles champion, takes on the man who took silver behind him in Gothenburg last year, Tony Jarrett. "Tony is one of the toughest competitors I have ever raced against," Johnson said. "No matter what you do he's always biting at your heels.''

Johnson said he hoped that Colin Jackson, Britain's world record holder, would recover his full form in time for the Olympics. "I miss running against the old Colin Jackson," he said.

Jackson, meanwhile, has already departed to begin his preparations in Florida. But his friend and business partner Linford Christie is due to race over 100m after his photo-finish defeat in Nice on Wednesday at the hands of the new world champion, Donovan Bailey.

Elsewhere the javelin should be a big point of interest. Tessa Sanderson, bound for a record sixth Olympics, will seek to move further beyond the 60 metres mark around which she has been throwing for the bulk of the season. And Steve Backley, also Atlanta-bound, is hoping for a similar statement of intent in what will be only his second competition since recovering from an Achilles tendon operation.

The chest infection which obliged Kenya's triple world steeplechase champion Moses Kiptanui to pull out of the Stockholm meeting means that he may not be operating at full speed if he runs a 3,000m which includes Britain's John Nuttall.