Timely triumph can trigger boost to British athletics

Mike Rowbottom reports on the valuable stimulus provided by European Cup victory
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The Independent Online
Malcolm Arnold, Britain's director of coaching, believes the weekend's European Cup victory will have a reinvigorating effect on a sport that has been perceived as being on the wane in some quarters. "Hopefully it will bring sponsors back into the sport who were perhaps having doubts about the quality of the people involved."

The event could hardly have turned out better for Britain in terms of encouragement for the immediate future.

The startling victory by Robert Hough in the steeplechase was the most dramatic example of new talent coming to the fore. The 25-year-old sports consultant, making his international debut, was dazed by what had happened to him in the aftermath of outsprinting Italy's Olympic bronze medallist, Alessandro Lambruschini.

Hough studied German at Sheffield University, and now supplements his income by translating. His performance late on the second day translated the possibility of a British victory into a probability.

The third place in the 800m earned by Mark Sesay - also 25, also making his international debut - gave Britain another unexpected lift. It may yet prove to be a profoundly important performance for a runner whose outstanding junior career was followed by a long sequence of illness and injury.

Donna Fraser, second in the 400m in a personal best; Janine Whitlock, who put seven centimetres on to her British pole vault record of 4.03; Robert Weir, who secured a hugely important second place in the discus behind Germany's Jurgen Schult: these were the unheralded athletes who can depart Munich with pride.

The lingering possibility that Linford Christie might decide - or be persuaded - to go back on his decision not to compete in this summer's World Championships was raised once again by a comment from Roger Black in a television interview.

Britain's double Olympic silver medallist, chosen to take over the team captaincy from Christie after the European Cup, said he would stand aside if the sprinter wanted to compete in Athens.

"It would be ridiculous for Linford to be in the team and not captain," Black said yesterday. "I spoke to Linford about it, and he appreciated the gesture, but he told me that he wasn't going to change his mind. I really don't think he will. I just wanted to make sure that if the issue ever arose it wouldn't be a problem."

Paul Edwards, the international shot putter who received a four-year doping ban in 1994, has lost his High Court action to return to competition.

Edwards claimed he was being unfairly treated compared to athletes in other European countries, such as Germany and Russia, who had returned half-way through four-year bans citing civil law on restraint of trade.

But his plea was rejected by Judge Gavin Lightman. "We are pleased," a British Athletic Federation spokeswoman said. "We have been told that we have acted lawfully in applying a four-year ban."

Edwards, however, believes he can return to competition by joining a German club. "It's terribly complicated," he said yesterday. "I find it unbelievable. But as far as I'm concerned I'll be joining a German club and competing in this country again."

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