Track and field of pleasant dreams

Compiled,Simon Turnbull
Wednesday 08 January 2014 04:08
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Kelly Morgan (javelin)

Kelly Morgan might well have been shooting for gold in the Commonwealth Games netball tournament. The 22-year-old Army clerk played for the England development squad against Australia last year. "I'm a goal shooter," she says. Instead, having placed her netball career on hold, Morgan will be a golden shot for England in the centre of the track and field arena. At the AAA Champion-ships in Birmingham last Sunday she improved her British record to 64.87m, and now stands third in the world rankings – behind Osleidys Menendez of Cuba (67.40) and Tatiana Shikolenko of Russia (65.08). The next best throw by a Commonwealth athlete this summer is 57.99, by Laverne Eve of the Bahamas. "I can't believe what I've done this season," Morgan says. "I've surpassed everything I expected to achieve. I just have to hold myself together now – especially my head."

Jana Pittman (400m hurdles)

At the Sydney Olympics, Australia's hopes of gold in the track and field arena were borne by Cathy Freeman. At Manchester they will be carried on the shoulders of the 19-year-old Jana Pittman. Both Freeman and Pittman will run in an Australian women's 4 x 400m relay team, who are capable of challenging for a medal. Pittman, though, is also capable of challenging for the gold medal in the 400m hurdles. Indeed, she will start as the marginal favourite following her victory in Paris two weeks ago against Deon Hemmings, the 1996 Olympic champion from Jamaica. Pittman clocked 54.58sec, the second-fastest-ever time by an Australian – behind Debbie Flintoff-King's gold medal winning 53.17 at the Seoul Olympics in 1988. Having stuttered at three flights in the Stade de France, she is clearly capable of going much faster when she refines her raw hurdling technique.

Darren Ritchie (long jump)

Not since 1958 have Scotland's track and field athletes failed to win a medal at a Commonwealth Games. Their prospects for 2002 were looking distinctly bleak until Darren Ritchie produced the leap of his life at the AAA Championships in Birmingham eight days ago. With a Scottish record of 7.93m, he beat Chris Tomlinson, the young Englishman who broke Lynn Davies' 34-year-old British long-jump record in May. Tomlinson and James Beckford of Jamaica will be the favourites, but on his Birmingham form Ritchie could challenge for Scotland's first medal in the event. If he did step on to the podium he would do so with the aid of a titanium screw that was inserted into a foot after a stress fracture. Last autumn the 28-year-old Galashiels man had to have a bone grafted from his hip on to his left foot. "I'm still in pain," he says, "and I've had to change the style of my jumping."

Nicolas Macrozonaris (100m)

The fastest 100m runner in the Commonwealth this year is Frankie Fredericks. The second fastest is Nick Macrozonaris. The 9.91sec he clocked to win the Canadian title in Edmonton last month was assisted by a following wind of 3.7m per second, above the allowable limit butfaster than both Dwain Chambers and Mark Lewis-Francis ran with wind assistance when beating Maurice Greene in Sheffield three weeks ago. Macrozonaris was first inspired to run by the sight of Donovan Bailey winning the Olympic 100m in Atlanta. Whether he can become a Canadian sprint hero himself remains to be seen, though the 21-year-old student from Laval, Quebec, is in buoyant mood, having also clocked a "windy" 9.96sec in the heats at his national championships. "If your body can run 9.9s two races in a row, it shows you can run it without the wind," he says.

Helen Pattinson (1500m)

Helen Pattinson isn't quite on top of the world, but she isn't far off it. At the Golden League meeting in Monte Carlo on Friday night, the 28-year-old Preston Harrier finished third in a thrilling sprint finish to the women's 1500m. Her time, 4min 01.10sec, put her third in the world rankings – behind the two women who finished narrowly ahead of her, Alesya Turova of Belarus (4:01.01) and Regina Jacobs of the USA (4:01.02).It was a big step into world-class territory for the former lifeguard, whose previous best time stood at 4:04.82. It moved her into fifth place in the all-time British rankings, just 0.37sec behind Kirsty Wade, who won the Commonwealth 1500m title in Edinburgh in 1986. With Maria Mutola expected to concentrate on the 800m, Kelly Holmes will start favourite to win the event in Manchester. Pattinson, though, is a serious medal contender now.

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