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Gardener rethinks sprint future

5 March 2007

By Sarah Holt

Jason Gardener is rethinking his future in athletics after capturing a fourth European Indoor 60m gold in Birmingham.

The 31-year-old had hinted he may retire before the championships, but victory has given him hope of continuing his 100m career outdoors.

"This win certainly gives me realistic ambitions for a summer campaign," Gardener told BBC Sport.

"I needed to win to continue and now it is about whether I have the real desire and whether my body can stand it."

Gardener's triumph at the National Indoor Arena saw him equal hurdler Colin Jackson's record four gold European Indoor medals.

But while Jackson was able to convert his indoor success outdoors, Gardener has struggled and has not won individual gold at any major championship.

The Bath athlete's most famous victory outdoors was as part of Britain's gold medal-winning 4x100m squad at the 2004 Olympics.

And, unless he is able to add to his medal collection, Gardener is hesitant about committing to an outdoor season in which the World Championships loom large in August.

"The 100m is an event where I have struggled in the past," said Gardener, who became only the third Briton to break 10 seconds with his personal best of 9.98 seconds in 1999.

"I have managed to come in the top 10 and make finals but I don't want to just make up a team. I want to be on the podium."

His coach, Malcolm Arnold, wants Gardener to continue competing until the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and believes his charge still has untapped potential over 100m.

And BBC pundit Steve Cram agrees that Gardener should stick around for another two seasons as he is a key part of the relay team and is able to offer advice and experience to the crop of emerging young sprinters.

One of those sprinters, Craig Pickering, trains with Gardener in Bath and for much of the season bested him over 60m.

The 20-year-old credits the 31-year-old with his successful indoor campaign, which saw him follow Gardener home for silver, and has also urged him to stay in the sport.

"I cannot emphasize enough how much Jason has helped me," Pickering told BBC Sport.

"Malcolm sets the training but he doesn't know what it is like to run 60m indoors or to be out on the circuit, but Jason does and he always gives me advice."

"I don't want him to retire. He has loads left to give and I want him around for a few more years."

As well as weighing up a continuing career over 100m on the track, Gardener, who has a degree in media communication and sociology, is also considering a career as a coach or as part of Bath Rugby Club's marketing team.

"I have to go home and look at what else I can and where I can go from here," Gardener said.

"Coaching has been talked about but I've put that on hold until after these championships."

"Something has also been put out there by Bath too, but not playing rugby! I used to play on the wing at school but it was too cold out there."

For the immediate future at least, Gardener's thoughts are focused on his family - his wife Nancy is expecting their second child any day now.

"I should get back for the birth," said Gardener. "My wife was watching the race and was going nuts."

"I wanted this win so much. It has been a frustrating and testing time for me - to be number one was the only thing I wanted."

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