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Gardener digs deep to record double success

30 January 2006

Jason Gardener Jason Gardener
Jason Gardener consolidated his role as the world’s leading indoor sprinter in Germany yesterday to complete a successful weekend in which he added a fifth successive Norwich Union International 60 metres title in Glasgow on Saturday.

Gardener, 30, has got there by dedication and a clean record on drugs, overcoming a history of injuries to win an Olympic gold medal as a member of Great Britain’s 4 x 100 metres team at Athens in 2004.

As a triple European and reigning world indoor 60 metres champion, he has succeeded where too many of his countrymen have failed. One of Britain’s more erudite athletes, Gardener spoke at the weekend of his concern at the expectation being loaded on young British sprinters, especially Harry Aikines-Aryeetey. After winning the 100 and 200 metres at the World Youth Championships last year, Aikines-Aryeetey was installed as a face for London 2012.

Projected prematurely as a potential Olympic 100 metres champion in 2012, the spotlight shined even brighter on Aikines-Aryeetey when he was named the BBC’s Young Sports Personality of the Year in December.

Remember Mark Lewis-Francis six years ago? Lewis-Francis won the world junior 100 metres title in 2000 but, after a promising start to his senior career, and his Olympic relay gold medal apart, he has failed to deliver. Much the same can be said of Christian Malcolm, the 1998 world junior 100 and 200 metres champion, while Dwain Chambers took drugs and was caught and Leon Baptiste, the 2003 European junior 100 metres champion, has made no impact at senior level.

“If you look back over sprinting in the last ten years we have had an enormous amount of talent in the juniors,” Gardener said. “But some who were thought of as being potential Olympic champions did not make it. It is far too easy to label young talent as future champions. The best thing we can do is acknowledge that we have incredible talent but also allow them to learn their trade and gradually come through the ranks.”

Gardener’s work ethic was exemplified at the weekend when he flew from Glasgow after his victory in 6.59sec, the world’s fastest time of 2006, to London for the night. He lost his world leading time to Terrence Trammell, an American who ran 6.57 in Boston, while he was sleeping, but in Karlsruhe, Germany yesterday, Gardener regained it by running 6.55 in his heat. He recorded 6.58 to win the final.

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