McColgan takes a gamble; Europa Cup: As old campaigner prepares to recapture her former glories, an Olympic champion comes back to his best

Norman Fox says today's 10,000m is a crucial test on the way back from injury

AS MORE and more of Britain's best athletes dropped out of the team for this weekend's European Cup, the need to find someone who could achieve something special and inspirational became all the greater. Previously that role of flag-bearer fell to Sally Gunnell, but she is injured. Today the burden must be carried by one famous name who many suggested should not be here at all. This afternoon Liz McColgan returns to the track after months of injury, controversy and unfulfilled promises.

Failure in the 10,000 metres would raise doubts about McColgan's future, be costly to the team and almost certainly eliminate her from consideration for this summer's world championships in Gothenburg.

The 1991 world champion and double Commonwealth Games gold medal winner's selection came about in a curious way. She has not run a track event for three years because of a succession of injuries and the assumption that if she had an athletics future it would be bound up in her marathon ambitions. Yvonne Murray would have been a more obvious choice for today's race but she opted to run the 5,000m, which she had not run for 12 years. But she has also had to miss this weekend's event because of a troublesome knee injury that she needs to clear up quickly.

So McColgan is left as the only notable distance runner in the team, female or male. A burden of expectancy falls on her today - one for which she may not yet be prepared.

Her only really impressive outing so far this year was in Basle earlier this month, when she finished second to the Ethiopian Olympic champion Derartu Tulu in a 5km road race. Her last track appearance was as far back as the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, and her most competitive road race of this season was her fifth place in the London Marathon. That run was typically brave but hardly relevant as far as her ambition to run in this year's world championship 10,000m was concerned. Nevertheless, the selectors inked in her name for the European Cup team ahead of most others. It was a gamble with an athlete who of late has continually promised much and only run into problems.

In May she pulled out of a five kilometre road race against Murray and Tulu in Portsmouth because of breathing problems. "I just felt there was something badly wrong at the time," she said. She also has to contend with the psychological problem she acquired in the London Marathon when by less than half distance she realised how much her two-year struggle with injuries had cost in stamina and competitive edge. "I knew what was wrong in London; it was a lack of racing," she explained.

That absence from competition is nagging at this normally ultra-confident, vastly experienced athlete who says her motive for wanting to run here today is to prove to herself that she can achieve the qualifying standard of 32min 30sec for the 10,000m at the world championships and have a year free of injuries before next year's Olympic Games in Atlanta where she is still keen to run.

The lesson of her London Marathon performance has been absorbed and she makes no predictions about a race today that brings her up against an old adversary, the New York and Boston marathon winner Uta Pippig, of Germany. She must also face Maria Guida, of Italy, who has run 32min 10.38sec this season and had a best time of 31min 42.14sec last season. Guida could be the surprise winner today but a second or third place for McColgan would be encouraging only if she can achieve a time that might make another year of hard training worthwhile.

No race in her long and illustrious career has held such significance. She also knows that some members of the British team have not completely forgiven her for issuing a condemnatory accusation last year about the scale of drug-taking within their numbers. Although she later toned down her original suggestion that "a lot" of the British team were taking stimulants, the original insinuation has not been forgotten. An often outspoken person, she also has great courage which Britain will need in great quantities on the second day of competition here.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office / Sales Manager

£22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established and expanding South...

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones