Sad Jarrett stumbles out

ATHLETICS
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The Independent Online
After missing Olympic bronze on a photo-finish four years ago, Tony Jarrett might have expected a turn of fortune here.

In vain. The only turn for the 27-year-old world silver medallist was a forward roll as he crashed into the sixth hurdle of his 110m race suffering from cramp and sprawled on to the track at the base of the seventh, bringing down Eric Kaiser of Germany, his next door neighbour, in the process.

To add insult to injury, Jarrett was subsequently disqualified; the German, meanwhile, was allowed back into today's semi-finals. "I started cramping up in the dining room after the heats this morning," a downcast Jarrett said afterwards. "I couldn't warm up properly."

His state of mind may have contributed to the fact that he false-started on his first attempt. But his second appeared to be going relatively well until the midway point.

"I felt okay at the start and through the first three hurdles," he said. "Then I thought it must be time to give it a bit more and that's when it went. I landed badly and felt the left calf cramp up and collapse under me."

Jarrett's face as he walked slowly back to the tunnel betrayed little, but inside he must have been questioning the fates. After his performance in chasing home Allen Johnson in Gothenburg last summer, he had looked in a position to shift his ambitions to another level this year.

Colin Jackson, who is hoping to get closer to Johnson at these Games, came through his second-round heat with a victory in 13.33sec, although he hit two hurdles and clipped another.

His first thoughts afterwards were for Jarrett, however. "I saw what happened to him on the big screen," Jackson said. "It's a great shame for him. But he was cramping up in the warm-up and that was probably on his mind more than the race.

"As far as I am concerned I'm happy with the way things are going and I'm feeling comfortable. But tomorrow's the big day and we'll see what happens.

Roger Black reached an Olympic 400m final for the first time in his career at the age of 30. Running smoothly and looking around him in the final 50m he won his semi-final in 44.69sec. Black seemed surprised not to see Butch Reynolds, the world record holder, alongside him - but Reynolds, whose left knee was heavily strapped, collapsed to the track after 100m clutching at his right hamstring. Iwan Thomas joined Black in today's final, hanging on to the fourth qualifying place behind Michael Johnson, who ran through easily to win in 44.59sec.

Sally Gunnell, the defending 400 metres hurdles champion, swept her injury fears aside with a comfortable debut yesterday. Gunnell, who missed all of last season with a serious injury and could only watch as America's Kim Batten wrested away both her world title and world record in Gothenburg, inflamed an Achilles tendon in Lausanne last month.

The gold medallist of Barcelona has admitted that she is not 100 per cent fit and that she will be running through pain in Atlanta, but she showed no signs of difficulties as she coasted through her heat.

Gunnell, who turns 30 today, was drawn in the unfavourable lane seven, and was not able to get her stride pattern entirely right as the American Tonja Buford-Bailey, one of her main medal rivals, led the field.

The Brighton runner was forced to chop her stride around the top bend but when she entered the home straight she opened up before easing home in 55.29 to come in just behind the American. Gunnell, who showed few signs of having been in a race, despite the intense humidity, was happy enough with her performance. "There were no problems, I felt fine," she said. "I just wanted to stretch my legs out and get a race under my belt. I wanted to take it nice and easy, and I felt in control."

Batten won her heat in 54.22 and she and Gunnell were joined in today's semi-final by Ireland's Susan Smith, third in her heat in 55.22.

Curtis Robb, who retained his British 800m title in last month's trials, indicated that he has worked to good purpose since he came through his first heat with ease.

Robb followed home the Norwegian who is favourite for the gold here, Vebjorn Rodal, checking on his outside as he put in a burst in the home straight, and then easing down to take the second automatic qualifying place in a time of 1min 45.85sec.

It was a highly satisfactory start for Robb, who has taken time off from his medical studiesin order to pursue his Olympic ambition.

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