Athletics: Chambers and Hansen prepared for difficult challenges

By Mike Rowbottom
Friday 21 February 2003 01:00

The main course of the World Indoor Championships is only three weeks away from being served up at Birmingham's National Indoor Arena, and there is a rich appetiser there tonight in the form of a meeting which will see at least two world record attempts from Haile Gebrselassie and Jolanda Ceplak.

The keenest point of interest in the Norwich Union Grand Prix, however, will be the form of those athletes who will be seeking to win medals on home territory next month, particularly two European champions for whom this will be the first competitive outing of the season, Dwain Chambers and Ashia Hansen.

Chambers, who has recovered from his recent hamstring injury, will stake his claim for one of the two British 60 metre places at the World Indoor Championships against the other main contenders, Jason Gardener and Mark Lewis-Francis. The 24-year-old European gold medallist has predicted that he will not run any slower than 6.44 seconds, which is faster than either of his domestic rivals have managed this season, and could run faster than the world record of 10.39. While Lewis-Francis, now recovered from the hamstring injury which saw him fail to finish last year's Commonwealth Games 100m final, has made a comparatively quiet start to the season, Gardener, twice European 60m champion and European record holder with 6.46sec, will not prove easy opposition.

For Hansen, who was declared fit to compete earlier this week after suffering with a bruised heel, the opposition includes the woman who has set the best mark in the triple jump so far this year, Yamile Aldama, and the world outdoor record holder, Inessa Kravets. Also in the field is Françoise Mbango, the Cameroonian beaten to Commonwealth gold in Manchester by Hansen's final jump.

In the men's triple jump, Britain's Olympic and world champion, Jonathan Edwards, will be attempting to halt the triumphal progress of the 23-year-old who beat him in Glasgow this month, Christian Olsson. The Swede underlined his consistency in Stockholm on Tuesday as he bettered 17 metres for the 26th time in succession, beating Edwards's record. In doing so, he added 16cm to the season's best with 17.40.

Gebrselassie will make an attempt on the world indoor two miles record of 8min 09.66sec set on the same track three years ago by fellow countryman Hailu Mekonnen, who will also be in the race. The double Olympic 10,000m champion, who is 30 in April, will have noisy support from more than 200 expatriate members of his fan club.

The other world record attempt will come in the 1,000 metres from Ceplak, who aims to beat the mark of 2:30.94 set by Mozambique's Maria Mutola. The Slovenian will then have an hour to rest before assisting Britain's Kelly Holmes in an attempt on the national 1500m record of 4:06.75.

Holmes, who broke the national indoor 800m record last Sunday week, infamously inferred Ceplak was a cheat at last summer's European Championships, but bridges have clearly been mended between the two athletes.

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