Victory cramps Edwards' style

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Someone up there must like Jonathan Edwards. Britain's only world champion carried his 14-meeting triple jump winning streak into Olympic year yesterday when he won at the Grand Prix staged to celebrate the opening of the Centennial Olympic Stadium, but not before surviving an injury scare.

Edwards took just three of his six jumps, as a bout of cramp brought on by the boiling 90-degree heat and from having to stand on a lengthy and sweaty bus ride to the stadium curtailed his competition. Not, though, before he had managed a winning 17.59 metres in the second round.

Even two months' acclimatisation in the heat and humidity of Florida had not prepared Edwards for the travails of his bus trip to the stadium. After it left the athletes' hotel, the bus was caught in the heavy traffic which clogged the roads around the centre of Atlanta as thousands made their way to the opening ceremony. There was no air conditioning on board, and Edwards found himself standing throughout the over-long journey.

It is probably fair to say that when he comes back to Atlanta in two months' time in search of the biggest prize in sport, an Olympic gold medal, Edward will not be taking the bus. "I got very, very bad cramp. By the third round of the competition, both my calves were cramping up and I nearly stopped on the runway," Edwards said. As he walked away from the pit after the jump, his event seemed to have been worryingly transformed into the hop, step, jump and limp. "But I'm not injured," he reassured.

Edwards was one of nine athletes who notched up world best marks for the year in the new stadium, including Michael Johnson in the 200m (19.83sec), Noureddine Morceli in the mile (3min 50.86sec), Sergei Bubka with a 6.02m pole vault, and Gwen Torrence's 10.85sec 100m.

With four men inside 10 seconds for their 100m, all the signs are that the new, super-fast track - which will stage just three more meetings before it is ripped up after the Games to make way for a baseball park - could yield a host of records when the world's best athletes reconvene here for the Olympics in 61 days' time.

Witnessed by a record official attendance for a Grand Prix meeting of 67,643, the 100m was even more extraordinary for the startling re-emergence as a force in world sprinting by Carl Lewis. The winner of eight Olympic gold medals, Lewis may have finished only runner-up yesterday, but he was convinced by his own form that he is right back among the contenders for that most precious of metals, Olympic gold.

After nearly snatching victory from Dennis Mitchell (9.93sec) in the final stride, Lewis, whose 9.94 was his fastest since winning the 1991 world title, said: "Today shows me I can be Olympic champion again."

That judgement by Lewis, who will be 35 by the time of the Atlanta Games, will have been informed in part by the fact that he managed to beat Donovan Bailey, the Canadian who last year deposed Linford Christie as world champion.

Of the Britons at yesterday's event, only Roger Black came away pleased with his performance. Third in the 400m behind the world record-holder Butch Reynolds' 44.33, Black, the former European champion, was timed at 44.81sec.

But Kelly Holmes, Britain's double medallist at last year's world championships, struggled to finish only seventh in the 1,500m, while world silver medallist Tony Jarrett was disqualified from the 110m hurdles after two false starts.

With US Vice-President Al Gore opening the $209m (pounds 138m) centrepiece of the Games, the giant horseshoe stadium was inaugurated with suitable pomp and world-class performances. A shame then that the record crowd did not bother to stay after the ceremony to watch the action. By the time Michael Johnson held off Mike Marsh to win a rousing 200m, the stadium looked almost empty. Pity athletics in America.

Comments