Gardener aims to deliver again

Gardener aims to deliver again
Monday 1 March 2004

1 March 2004 - Jason Gardener knows better than many that statistics prove nothing when it comes to delivering medals.

But the 28-year-old sprinter who spearheads the Great Britain and Northern Ireland team at the 10th IAAF World Indoor Championships in Budapest this week does carry some hope that the form that has enable him to dominate the 2004 world lists at 60 metres will carry some weight on the fast new surface at the 12,500-seat new SportArena.

Even after the normally significant US indoor championships, at which Shawn Crawford ran 6.47, Gardener goes to Budapest with seven of the top 10 marks this winter, his 6.46 set n Karlsruhe last month equalling his own European record.

And five years since first setting that record, when winning the first of his two World Indoor bronze medals, Gardener is convinced that he is in the sort of shape that could see that mark improved.

“I am ready to run even faster and, I still believe there is a lot more to come,” Gardener says.

“I’ve run fantastic times this season. It’s the best shape I’ve ever been in,” says the man who is now coached by Malcolm Arnold, the former mentor of Colin Jackson.

Arnold heads up one of Britain’s new athletics centres of excellence in Bath, the elegant Georgian city in south-west England, where Jackson, the former world sprint hurdles champion indoors and out, continues to be based and to offer advice to the up-and-coming athletes.

For Gardener, who has always lived in Bath, the presence of the new centre, with its new, multi-million pound indoor training facility, has given his career a real boost.

It was Jackson, for instance, who encouraged “the Bath Bullet” to travel to Germany early in February to make the most of Karlsruhe’s lightening fast track.

“I could have possibly gone faster, but after I had tied up the race early there was no-one challenging me,” Gardener said.

“I’ve said all season, I am ready to run even faster and, I still believe there is a lot more to come.”

The only time Gardener has put a foot wrong this winter was at the British indoor Grand Prix in Birmingham last month, when the normally most reliable of starters seemed to be glued to his blocks in his heat and so did not even get to race in that evening’s final. Again, the new false start rule made more headlines than the eventual outcome of the race.

Gardener reckons he has got that bad race out of his system - “It’s one of those things that happen”.

After World Indoor bronze medals in 1999 and 2003, Gardener, the European champion at 60m, believes his time has come to finally grab the global crown in Budapest.

There, his biggest rivals look likely to be the new US champion, Shawn Crawford, the 2001 World Indoor 200m gold medallist who appears to be in the right sort of shape to provide Gardener with the just the sort of opposition he needs to push him beyond past limits.

And Gardener knows that British athletics, and sprinting in particular, needs a morale boost after some dark days involving drug scandals.

But as far as Gardener is concerned, such stories are good news for athletics. “The sport’s sending the right message by catching these guys,” he says. “If you take drugs, you’re going to get caught.”

Steven Downes for the IAAF