Masterkova caps a memorable season

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The Independent Online

Zurich experienced the 20th world record in its history last night after another astonishing performance by the woman who can now claim to be the world's leading middle-distance runner. Svetlana Masterkova, Russia's double Olympic champion, reduced Paula Ivan's seven-year-old mark for the mile of 4min 15.61sec, finishing 25 metres clear of the pack in 4:12.57.

It was a stupendous conclusion to a stupendous season for Masterkova, who was the surprise winner of both the 800 and 1500m at the Olympics. As the hugely noisy, hugely knowledgeable crowd at the Letzigrund stadium acclaimed her - chanting her name like a football crowd, which is no easy task - and as the photographers and TV interviewers moved in, she seemed quite taken aback. She will have to get used to it.

Any hopes that Roger Black might have had of improving his British 400 metres record of 44.37sec disappeared in the wake of Anthuan Maybank, the American who had headed him home in the Olympic relay final. Maybank won last night in 44.18. Black finished a weary fourth in 44.83. "Of course I'm tired," he said. "To come down from the Olympics is very hard."

Mark Richardson, whose form in defeating Black over 300m four days earlier at Crystal Palace suggested the record might be within his reach but he only managed fifth place in 44.97.

Colin Jackson's melancholy season shows no sign of improving. Britain's 110m hurdles world record holder, diminished by tendinitis in his knee, was just a blur among the also-rans on a track where he has earned two famous victories in the last four years.

Given his wretched form in the last weeks it was no great surprise. But there was something of a turn-up as the Olympic champion, Allen Johnson, behind whom Jackson finished fourth in Atlanta, was beaten by his fellow American Jack Pierce.

Pierce, who failed to make the Olympic team after hitting a hurdle badly in the final of the US trials, won in 13.22sec. "This was my satisfaction," he said. "This was my Olympic Games."

Jackson had earlier received a tremendous ovation on being introduced to the crowd. At the moment he needs all the encouragement he can get. The sooner his season is over, and his knee properly attended to, the better.

A quarter of an hour earlier, Jackson's training partner Jamie Baulch had emphasised the new strength in depth of Britain 400m running in winning the B-race in 45.14sec. Jackson's own race was preceded by a B event, won in 13.38 by Tony Jarrett, who defeated both Jackson and Johnson at Crystal Palace.

Jonathan Ridgeon may not have been a winner on the night, but as he recovered from his 400m hurdles race he was the picture of a happy athlete.

His time of 48.79 - behind the 48.69 recorded by the American winner, Eric Thomas - was just 0.06sec off the personal best he set back in 1992. More significantly it marked his arrival at an intended destination in a year when he had made his third courageous comeback from serios injury.

Ridgeon, whose career appeared to have finally ended when he snapped an Achilles tendon early in 1993, had planned to be running sub-49sec at the Olympic Games. But, as he revealed last night, his Olympics nearly didn't happen after a strained calf in training left him unable to walk properly just 48 hours before his opening heat.

"I couldn't believe it when I woke up with the injury," he said. "After struggling back all year I thought I was going to miss the Olympics." In the event, after intensive treatment from the British team masseur, Mark , he was able to compete, winning his heat but being well beaten in the semi-final.

"I was so worried about the shape I was in that I think it drained me for the semi," he said. "But if I couldn't produce the run I wanted at the Olympics, here was the next best place. I am absolutely delighted. A lot of athletes have had it after the Olympics, but I feel really motivated. I want to do myself justice."

The evening did not prove to be similarly uplifting for Angie Thorp, who broke Sally Gunnell's eight-year-old British 100m hurdles record at the Olympics, running 12.80. Thorp looked jaded last night as she failed to qualify from her semi-final, finishing seventh in 13.09.