Ridgeon comes full circle

Jon Ridgeon, named yesterday as Britain's 400 metres hurdles choice for the European Cup in Madrid, described his return to top flight athletics as a "miracle" - and for once, the use of the word was understandable.

The 29-year-old former world 110m hurdles silver medallist has risen to the top of the British rankings on his third comeback after desperate Achilles tendon problems which required four operations.

Now he will compete in his first European Cup in a team which also includes the former Olympic javelin champion Tessa Sanderson who, like him, last competed for Britain at the 1992 World Cup in Havana.

"It's a miracle I'm back," Ridgeon said. "I was told I would never run again and I never thought I would. It's a dream come true. There is still a way to go and I must be cautious. But I've been training for six months now without any interruptions. As I learn the event again, I'm sure I can go quicker and then start thinking about the Olympics."

Sanderson, 40, will compete in her seventh European Cup after coming out of retirement last Saturday and immediately achieving the Olympic javelin qualifying standard. Her first was in 1975 when some of the team- mates she will join on 1 and 2 June were not even born. But there is no 800m return yet for Diane Modahl, who was finally cleared of drug-taking by the International Amateur Athletic Federation two months ago.

The double World Championship medallist Kelly Holmes switches to the two-lap event after a shaky opening 1500m in Atlanta on Saturday. She will take stock of the situation after an 800m this weekend and Modahl will come into contention for her place if there are more problems. But two girls, Hayley Parry and Sonya Bowyer, are ahead of her in the rankings.

The selectors have gone for European champion Du'aine Ladejo ahead of Mark Richardson in the 400m - Britain's most competitive event - and Dalton Grant before Steve Smith in the high jump. Linford Christie bids to extend his remarkable record in the competition to seven successive 100m wins. Christie, who has yet to say whether he will defend his Olympic title, also goes in the 200m, aiming for a third consecutive sprint double.

Sally Gunnell and Colin Jackson are back after missing last year's meeting through injury and illness, while Jonathan Edwards renews his association with the competition which launched his amazing triple jump sequence in Lille 12 months ago.

Automatic choices missing are Steve Backley, who has had an Achilles operation, John Regis with slight Achilles trouble and Yvonne Murray, who lost valuable winter training with a back problem.

Squad, Sporting Digest, page 31

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