Richardson returns in a hurry

Victory in first race since lifting of drugs ban raises 400 metre runner's world title hopes

By Mike Rowbottom
Wednesday 16 April 2014 03:53
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Mark Richardson reminded himself of what it felt like to be a winner here yesterday in his first individual race since having a doping ban lifted.

The 28-year-old Windsor runner, named captain of the British team for the Norwich Union Challenge, played his full part by defying a blustery wind to earn maximum points in the 400 metres.

Additional victories from Katharine Merry in the women's 400m, the men's 100 relay team and Jonathan Edwards, who produced a triple jump of 17.66m, the best in the world this year, earned Britain second place behind the United States in this three-nation match in Glasgow, with Russia bringing up the rear.

Richardson, who had not raced in his own right since winning the IAAF Grand Prix final in Doha eight months previously, won in a relatively slow time of 46.20sec.

What provided genuine reasons for optimism, however, as the World Championships loom ahead next month, was that he had defeated a field which included three of his likely rivals in Edmonton, including perennial domestic rival Iwan Thomas and former world champion Antonio Pettigrew.

The 33-year-old Pettigrew's victory in the recent US Championships prompted the current world champion Michael Johnson, who will not be competing in Canada, to name him as his likely successor.

But in the post-Johnson era Richardson is looking a likely contender, even though the after-effects of an Achilles tendon injury are still troubling him. Sensibly, however, he dismisses any temptation to see himself as world champion this year.

"I would be a fool to think so because I know I have got a mountain to climb," he said after finishing 0.05sec clear of Pettigrew. "But at least now I have an opportunity to try, so we'll just have to wait and see.

"Time is against me. It's only six weeks to the Worlds and I will need a lot of luck. There's a shortage of 400s and I'm struggling for races. I need as many as possible. I'm doing Nice next week but I'm going to have to run in British League races to get some in."

Thomas, who has missed the best part of the last two seasons through injury, was disappointed at finishing fifth in 46.68sec, but his winning performance in Dublin on Friday night, when he clocked 45.95sec, has left him feeling more positive about his prospects. "I'm moving in the right direction," he insisted.

Edwards's winning effort came as a swift response to the performance of his team-mate Phillips Idowu, who took the lead with 17.38m, a lifetime best, albeit marginally wind-assisted. After Idowu, whose colourful hairstyles (it was bleach blond yesterday) and exuberant demeanour make him a natural showman, had celebrated his way back down the runway, the 35-year-old Olympic champion was already preparing himself to put the young pretender in his place.

"If he hadn't jumped so well I wouldn't have done it," Edwards said with a grin afterwards. "Now I'm 35 you'd think he'd let me retire quietly in my backyard. I had to produce the goods. It's good to know I can still do it at my age."

Edwards is looking forward to the World Championships, where he aims to regain his title after what he describes as two "traumatic" failures in 1997 and 1999. "The pressure's off me to a certain extent, and I would say I'm relaxed and dangerous," he added.

Britain's other Olympic champion, Denise Lewis, had a useful day of practice for two of her heptathlon events. Although she finished last in the 100m hurdles in 13.29sec, she was satisfied with her performance, and her long jump of 6.53m was her best so far this year. "It's been a good day," Lewis said. 'We'll see how I get on in Edmonton – but I just needed a little ray of hope and I got it today."

Paula Radcliffe set her second personal best in the space of three days as she took third place in the 1500m in 4min 05.37sec behind the two Russians, Olga Yegorova, who won in 4.02.76, and Yelena Zadorozhnaya.

Radcliffe said: "I am getting a little bit annoyed at being beaten by the two Russian girls every time I come out."

There was disappointment in the 100m for the British pair Dwain Chambers and Mark Lewis-Francis, who finished second and fourth respectively in a race won by US sprinter Jon Drummond in 10.10sec.

"I was sleeping," Chambers said. "Once I got going I was fine. I have got to work on my start. I wasn't focused on it properly today. If I don't get away well I'm not going to catch the likes of Maurice Greene."

Lewis-Francis was harder on himself. "My legs felt really dead," he said. "I felt really flat today. I thought I could psyche myself up, but when I got into the blocks there was just nothing there. I ran rubbish."

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