`We eventually arrived at midnight, seven hours late...'

PASSPORT: JONATHAN EDWARDS

JONATHAN EDWARDS certainly gets around. He broke the world triple- jump record and was World Champion in1995. He is now in training for the athletics World Cup in South Africa, and the Commonwealth Games in Malaysia, both of which are held this autumn. But he does not sound to me like a born traveller.

"I enjoy competing all over the world," he claims. "There is quite a buzz when you get to the airport. The frustrating thing is that I don't get to see or do much when I'm away as I am too focused on the event itself. I usually leave straight after I have competed."

The athletics season starts at the end of May and carries on through the summer. "This year I have been to Oslo, Rome and New York, so it has been fairly hectic so far. I am also often away two or three days a week for British competitions. It is difficult to take holidays with my family, because all through the school ones I am competing. We did manage to combine both work and leisure in Lanzarote for two weeks this winter. My two boys went off to Kids Club while I trained and my wife Alison went to aerobics classes. In the afternoons, we just drove around together and did some sightseeing. Most athletes don't have families - I am in the minority. Because you need to be so focused, sometimes there isn't time for a family."

Jonathan finds his British passport an easy one to travel with, especially when on tour with the British team. "We get pretty first-class treatment. We usually get priority tags on our baggage and everything is organised for us." Just as well, as he leaps from one event to another without pausing: "I'll be flying straight to Malaysia from South Africa." He is not one to hang around after the event either, and he anticipates a short stay in Kuala Lumpur. "I arrive on a Monday and leave on the Saturday. My aim is to arrive at an event as late as I can so that my routine is disrupted as little as possible."

But Jonathan admits that he is happiest when competing in Europe. "It is easier as the time zones and weather are pretty much the same and flying time is a maximum of four hours. Malaysia is going to be a different kettle of fish as it is eight hours ahead, so it will feel like we are competing in the middle of the night. On top of that there is the hot and humid weather which will make it difficult."

After competing at the athletics World Cup in Cuba in 1992, at the end of another track and field season, Jonathan was on his way home to Newcastle. "It was a long flight back and I was looking forward to spending a few days in Scotland with my wife, who was waiting at the airport. But the plane was diverted to Manchester because of fog. They said that there would be buses waiting for us but there was an inevitable further delay, followed by a slow drive up to Newcastle.

We eventually arrived at midnight, seven hours late. I had been away for quite a long time and it had been quite a hard season and I was really looking forward to getting home, so it was a pretty horrible experience knowing that I was so close and yet so far away."

Jonathan has obviously not yet seen the worst that travel can offer.

DIANA PEPPER

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