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Pickering targets Gardener upset

1 March 2007

By Sarah Holt

Craig Pickering is confident he can end Jason Gardener's reign as European Indoor 60m champion this weekend.

The 20-year-old European number one has beaten his training partner three times in 2007 but expects Gardener to fight back in Birmingham.

"I'm certainly good enough to win," said Pickering, who has a season's best of 6.55 seconds.

"Jason is 100% focused on winning the title. He beat me in our last race in Birmingham but I'm feeling confident."

After a shaky start to the season, Gardener, the three-time European Indoor champion, rediscovered his form to edge out Pickering at the Birmingham Grand Prix on 17 February.

Both return to the National Indoor Arena to race for the European Indoor crown along with fellow training partner Ryan Scott, Britain's third entry in the 60m.

The trio train together in Bath under the tutelage of Malcolm Arnold - Gardener and Scott are even room-mates in Birmingham - but Pickering insists it will be every man for himself with medals at stake.

"Training with Jason and Ryan is great because the competitiveness spurs us on and makes us train harder," Pickering told BBC Sport.

"It's not weird that we have to race each other because on the start line we forget that we are friends."

"Malcolm just wants us to run well but I want to win. Jason definitely still has the hunger but I'm facing extra pressure as the favourite."

"It's not much fun really when you're the favourite but I'm just staying relaxed and not thinking too much about the race."

"France's Ronald Pognon should be in the final too but sometimes he runs well and sometimes he runs really, really badly. I'm just hoping the poor Pognon turns up in Birmingham."

Pickering's own form plateaued in 2006 after he won the European junior 100m title and set a personal best of 10.22 in 2005.

But, despite failing to win a place in the senior squad for last August's European Championships, Pickering remained patient and relied on the wisdom of coach Arnold, who he began working with in September 2005.

"I was disappointed last year because I wasn't running very well," he said. "But Malcolm said it would take two winters to get used to my training."

"I think that he is the best coach in the world. He knows how to make people run quick and have the right mental outlook."

"His attitude has rubbed off on all of us and we are ruthless when it comes to competitions now. We want to be the best all the time and he expects us to be."

Being the best means working hard to translate his indoor form through to the outdoor season and the World Championships in Osaka, Japan.

Pickering has yet to make his mark over 100m at senior level despite growing public expectation over his credentials as a potential 2012 medallist.

The Milton Keynes athlete refuses to join in the hype over 2012 but does intend to take over the mantle from established sprinters like Gardener, Marlon Devonish and Christian Malcolm.

"The old guard are in their thirties now and, apart from Mark Lewis-Francis, there is a gulf between them and the youngsters coming through," said Pickering.

"When the top guys retire it is up to us to pick up the pieces. I see myself progressing from here, making the squad for the Worlds this summer and in a few years breaking the 10-second barrier and getting into finals.

"Britain needs medals - we have been criticised for not winning any but hopefully this weekend I can get a medal and start to change that."

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