Sonia's twin incentive

Norman Fox sees the athletes go through their final paces before Atlanta

When somebody inevitably and almost accusingly demanded to know why she had not broken the 5,000 metres world record "as advertised" at Crystal Palace on Friday night, the stately, composed Irish runner Sonia O'Sullivan was not bitter. She smiled knowingly and said expectation was a fine thing - performing to demand was another. What she did suggest was that her own Olympic expectations were even higher than those of the couch potato who asked the question.

She goes to the United States this week not concerned that almost everyone she has heard giving her unprovoked advice has said that taking on the 1,500m and 5,000m in the heat, physical and mental, of the Olympic Games in sweltering Atlanta is too much. "I've always planned to do the two races," she said. "There's plenty of recovery time between them - the finals are seven days apart - and in any case everybody has to run in the same conditions." Not everybody is going to run heats and finals of two particularly enervating events, though. "I'm happy that the 5,000m is first and the 1,500m later," she said.

She is favourite for the 5,000m and if she goes into the shorter race with the gold medal, she can relax and not suffer as much tension as others who are concentrating on the one event. Her attitude to the 5,000 is that it could be a slow race. "I've not really thought much about the tactics of other people. I don't even know what the Chinese have been doing. All I know is that I have to cover every move," which is exactly what she did at Crystal Palace when Paula Radcliffe gave her some solid competition until the final lap when O'Sullivan strode away.

No one with serious Olympic expectations was going to attempt a flat out performance as close to the Games as Friday - least of all Linford Christie, who had just recovered from some hamstring irritation, and Jonathan Edwards, who had only one semi-serious leap of over 17 metres. Indeed O'Sullivan confessed that she had used up most of her energy in a lively morning training session in perfect weather. By the evening there was a breeze and the mood was not with her.

Only the javelin competitors Steve Backley and Tessa Sanderson really needed to test themselves one more time. Sanderson, now aged 40, has progressed so well that a medal is within reach but she is annoyed that so few competitions have been available in the Olympic run-up. "I keep hitting and missing," she said. "I really needed more events, but I think I've done enough to send out some shock waves. Deep down I know I can win."

She thinks the gold will be won with a throw of about 67 metres. She says that distance could be within her capability "but you could say that about several others". A throw of 64.06 metres at Crystal Palace still left her outside the top 10 of the year, but the gap is closing.

Backley, still behind with his training after Achilles tendon problems, may well have to find at least another five metres if he is to beat Jan Zelezny in the Olympic final. However, a throw of 85.58 metres on Friday and four other ones of over 80 metres may have left him second to Gavin Lovegrove, of New Zealand, but in a good frame of mind and hoping for one of Zelezny's occasional off- days.

Although Edwards is convinced that sometime this summer he is going to produce another huge triple jump, possibly even a world record, he is also coming to the conclusion that when it comes to the Olympics, the important thing is consistency and to do just enough to keep the opposition at bay. Although his timing is not yet perfect, his best leaps in all his competitions this summer have always given him a clear lead over the field. All he has to do in Atlanta is the repeat the performance. His main Olympic enemies could be his own nerves.

As for Christie, much has been made of a poor start leading to Friday's defeat by Michael Green, of Jamaica. The Olympic champion was hardly going to blast out of the blocks and invite more hamstring trouble. "It will be all right on the day," he suggested. His performances against much quicker runners than Green this summer point to his day being in the past, but it would still be unwise to bet against his suddenly producing one outstanding sprint. The problem is that having entered the Olympic 200m as well, he could find the physical demands, especially given Atlanta's humidity, cause him further injuries.

As the British athletes head for their American training camp, Christie's defeats, the latest injury to Sally Gunnell and comparatively poor form of Colin Jackson have combined to reduce public interest, a fact reflected in hundreds of empty seats at Crystal Palace, though failure to attract high quality foreign competitors was partly to blame.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
News
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
arts + entsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker