McColgan learns a lesson for Atlanta

Mike Rowbottom assesses the Olympic implications of the London Marathon

Liz McColgan believes a lesson learned from her London Marathon win will increase her chances of winning the Olympic title in Atlanta.

She admitted yesterday that allowing a breakaway group to build up a substantial lead in the first half of Sunday's race could have cost her victory.

Echoing the post-race comments of her new coach, Grete Waitz, she said yesterday: "It's a situation I will never let arise again. The problem was that all the main contenders were in the second group and we were so busy watching one another. We didn't give the girls who were ahead any credit. They could easily have run on and won the race."

McColgan plans three races before the Olympics - possibly starting with a road race in early June and including one over her old distance of 10,000 metres on the track.

The 31-year-old Scot, who put an injury-ravaged career back on course in the capital, has no plans for a pre-Games visit to Atlanta. "I know it will be hot, humid and hilly - and not particularly fast. But when I run a marathon course I'm so focused it could be anywhere in the world. Because of the type of runner I am, I turn off everything. All I see is a blue line on the road."

McColgan admitted that her first reaction on crossing the line on the The Mall was directed at those who had written her career off. "So many people had doubted me that my feeling was `I showed you'. My second thought was how good I felt - light and bouncy. It was amazing. That's why I am so confident for the Olympics."

David Bedford, who puts together London's elite field, will try to entice McColgan and three-times men's winner Dionicio Ceron back next year, even though any Olympic success would send their appearance fees soaring. Meanwhile, the London Marathon and the British Athletic Federation will each put pounds 25,000 into a fund aimed at promoting distance running in the United Kingdom. Contributions from national sports funds will bring the total to pounds 100,000.

Britain's marathon selectors will meet within the next fortnight to name two other women who will join McColgan in Atlanta. But who will join the pre-selected Richard Nerurkar and Peter Whitehead as Britain's third man remains tantalisingly open.

Evans, who had earlier said he would not consider running the Olympic marathon even if he had won in London, insisted afterwards that he would not decide his course until discussing the weekend's events with his coach and agent, John Bicourt. But Bicourt himself was more forthright, making it clear that the plan was for Evans, a 10,000m finalist at the last Olympics, to try for the same event in Atlanta, thus leaving himself fresh enough to run one of the big commercial marathons in the autumn.

"If Paul does the Olympic marathon, he will be wanting to get into the top three," Bicourt said. "What we have to consider is what realistic chance he has of doing that, because who remembers who is fifth, sixth, seventh or eighth in the Olympic marathon? The Olympics makes millions, but it doesn't give anything to the athletes. Paul has got a family and a life to lead."

At 35 Evans has spent years reaching his present commercial value, and he does not have that many earning years ahead of him. His is a perfectly reasonable position - but he needs to let the British Athletic Federation know of his intentions soon enough for them to alert other runners if need be.

Despite his top-10 finish in what was only his second marathon, Gary Staines, who suffers from asthma, is wary of committing himself to a marathon in the Atlanta heat and humidity. With the next British finisher on Sunday, Mark Hudspith, back in 18th place on 2:19:25, the way may yet be open for Steve Brace to claim the third spot. His 2:10 run in Houston before Christmas put him firmly into the selectors' minds - but he may, ironically, have lessened his chances by running the Belgrade marathon on Saturday, where he finished eighth in the relatively disappointing time of 2:15:47.

Whether Belgium's Vincent Rousseau will change his mind about boycotting Atlanta because of the heat remains to be seen, but it was greatly to his credit that he finished second on Sunday in conditions which he famously hates.

Rousseau's decision to step off the start line at Rotterdam last year as temperatures rose to 70F was clearly fresh in Bedford's mind before the event got underway. "I stayed out of Vincent's way just in case he was trying to find me," Bedford said with a grin.

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