Athletics: Edwards aims to add missing title to medal collection

By Mike Rowbottom
Wednesday 25 December 2013 03:29
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If Christian Olsson was a South African, or indeed if Sweden were part of the Commonwealth, Jonathan Edwards' hope of completing his career medal set at the Games, which get under way in Manchester on Thursday might be more perilous.

But as the only triple jumper who has consistently challenged him this season will not be present for reasons of geography and British history, Britain's Olympic, world and European champion can feel confident that the Commonwealth title he missed by one place in 1990 and 1994 is finally within reach.

That said, Edwards, who by his own admission was beaten by someone he had never heard of at the Auckland Commonwealth Games 12 years ago – Marios Hadjiandreou of Cyprus – will be wary of another upset. And mindful of the fact that team-mate Phillips Idowu, who beat him for the first time in Sheffield last month, might just be the man to achieve it.

For Britain's resurgent sprinter Darren Campbell, too, these Games have a special significance as he competes on a track that is just 10 miles from the house on Moss Side where he was brought up. The Olympic 200 metres silver medallist, who indicated his recovery from two years of injury and illness problems the weekend before last by finishing second in both the 100m and 200m at the European Championship trials, has said he could retire happily if he won the Commonwealth 200m.

But Campbell will face a big obstacle to his ambitions if Frankie Fredericks, his occasional training partner who has also recovered his form after two years of injury, decides to run at the distance where he has won world and Commonwealth titles, as well as two Olympic silvers.

Should the 34-year-old Namibian decide to go for the shorter sprint, he will face Britain's 19-year-old Mark Lewis-Francis and Dwain Chambers, who has already indicated his intentions this season by twice defeating the Olympic and world champion, Maurice Greene. South Africa's Morne Nagel, who excelled over 60m earlier this year and has a 200m best this season of 20.10sec, could also figure in the medals along with Obadele Thompson, of Barbados, the Olympic 100m bronze medallist who was fourth in the 200m at Sydney.

The 100m title will be undefended, however, as Ato Boldon, who beat Fredericks to the gold in Kuala Lumpur, has withdrawn following poor form.

Kenya's male athletes swept the board from 800 to 10,000m at the 1998 Commonwealths in Kuala Lumpur, as well as taking the 3,000m steeplechase. The decision of leading runners such as the Olympic 1500m champion, Noah Ngeny, the Olympic 3000m steeplechase champion, Reuben Kosgei, and the world 5,000m champion, Richard Limo, to concentrate on earning prize-money this year has provoked predictable anger back home, with Kip Keino, the chairman of Kenya's National Olympic Committee, accusing European agents of having no respect for their athletes' national duty. But even with a largely reserve squad, the Kenyans are confident of doing at least as well as four years ago. "I believe they will rise to the occasion," said their head coach, Dan Muchoki, last week.

Chris Tomlinson, Britain's new long jump record holder, will face a strong challenge from his team-mate Nathan Morgan and the Scotsman Darren Ritchie. Jamaica's experienced James Beckford, who has done 8.21m this season, could also figure strongly.

South Africa's world high jump champion, Hestrie Cloete, is an obvious favourite in her event, but Britain's former European Cup winner Susan Jones, a local girl from Trafford Park AC, will be ready to capitalise on any mistakes in front of her home crowd.

The men's high jump is likely to be dominated by Cloete's 20-year-old team-mate, Jacques Freitag, the rising star of South African athletics, who leads the world rankings with 2.37m.

After improving her British record twice in the European trials to 64.87m, the second furthest in the world this year, Britain's Kelly Morgan has an outstanding chance of gold in the javelin – as does the double Olympic silver medallist Steve Backley.

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