Edwards reacts to pressure by showing stature

Olympic triple jump champion dismisses domestic rivals in style as he prepares to prove he is the best in the world

By Mike Rowbottom
Saturday 05 April 2014 05:28
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Jonathan Edwards required just one jump here at the Norwich Union World Champtionship trials and AAA Championships to re-emphasise his standing as the best triple jumper in the world – a point he intends to prove again next month as he sets out to reclaim a title he last won in 1995.

After running through his first effort in a competition which included his fellow Olympic finalists Phillips Idowu and the Commonwealth champion Larry Achike, Edwards responded to challenging efforts from both his young rivals by recording 17.59 metres, second furthest in the world this year behind his winning effort of 17.66m in Glasgow two weeks earlier.

From the moment Edwards began to accelerate down the runway it was clear that something good was about to happen. He hit the board almost perfectly, transferring speed into distance as no-one else in the world can, before rising from the sand with a broad grin.

For Achike, who had produced a season's best of 16.99m, and the exuberant Idowu – his head dyed red – who had managed 16.88m, it was another full stop. One day, perhaps, they will get the better of the foxy, silver-haired 35-year-old. But not today.

"Until a couple of days ago I wasn't feeling very well,'' said Edwards, who now plans to compete in Stockholm on Wednesday and at Sunday's Norwich Union grand prix at Crystal Palace. ''I had a bout of flu and I thought about pulling out of today's competition but then I thought again about all the stick I would get.

''My speed is excellent at the moment which is encouraging, especially as the conditions were not great for jumping.''

The men's 400 metres saw a joyful confirmation of Mark Richardson's return to the mainstream after the lifting of his doping ban. The 28-year-old Windsor athlete produced his best time of a season that only began for him a month ago to win his third AAA title in 45.79 seconds. That is outside the world qualifying mark, but Richardson, who had to forsake a possible Olympic medal last season in order to work on his case for being cleared, already has a counting mark from last year.

The same does not hold true for the man whom he held off in the final 30 metres. Iwan Thomas finished second in 46sec ahead of a private battle which saw Mark Hylton edge ahead of the former world indoor champion Jamie Baulch by 46.36 to 46.56.

Thomas now has a week to get under the qualifying mark of 45.72. Hylton also needs to register that mark if he is to claim a place ahead of the current world indoor champion Daniel Caines, who was resting an injury at the weekend but who has already achieved the qualifying mark.

As expected, the 100 metres contest – won on Saturday by Dwain Chambers in 10.01sec, surpassing Linford Christie's championship record of 10.04secs – also produced a spot of awkward reckoning for the selectors, who will announce their main team for next month's World Championships in Edmonton tomorrow, and will make a final selection a week today after Crystal Palace.

While the 200 metres was being contested yesterday, Britain's Olympic silver medallist Darren Campbell was restricted to the role of observer as he nursed the troublesome right hamstring which has put his World Championships participation in doubt.

Campbell only managed sixth place in the 100m final, where Christian Malcolm took third place behind Chambers and the 18-year-old runner-up Mark Lewis Francis, who equalled his season's best of 10.12secs.

The selectors will have to decide whether to pick Campbell in one, or both events. Their deliberations were further confused by the 200m result, as Marlon Devonish was a surprise winner in 20.53sec, ahead of Malcolm, second in 20.63sec, and Chambers, who was third in a personal best of 20.65sec.

The question now is: who will Campbell displace if the selectors are convinced of his fitness? Campbell had planned to run the 100 and 200m at Stockholm on Wednesday to help answer that question, but that now seems too risky.

It was a triumphant moment for the Coventry sprinter, who was a controversial choice for Britain's European Cup team ahead of Malcolm last month, but who lived up to the faith put in him by talking a silver medal in Bremen.

As Britain's élite strove towards Edmonton, the stadium announcer carried regular updates of the next generation's accomplishments at the European Under-23 Championships in Amsterdam and the World Youth Championships in Debrecen, Hungary.

Gold medals at the first event from John Barbour in the 100m (10.26sec), Matthew Elias (400m hurdles) and Jade Johnson (long jump), as well as in the men's 100 and 400 relays and the women's 400 relay gave a healthy indication. Victories at the youth championships from Aileen Wilson in the high jump, and Jonathan Moore in the triple jump, added to the warm glow.

Chris Rawlinson re-established his credentials as a potential world medallist with a 400m hurdles victory in 48.68secs. Du'Aine Ladejo-Thorne earned a trip alongside him in second place.

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