Pittman eyes record
By Mike Hurst
JANA PITTMAN is capable of breaking Debbie Flintoff-King’s Australian record for the 400m hurdles, although the tight bends at Bislett Stadium in Oslo tonight may delay her bid.

Pittman’s race in the first Golden League event of the year follows a showdown between Australia’s fastest men, Patrick Johnson and Matt Shirvington, over 100m in Switzerland.

Johnson clocked 10.13sec to win the 100m final at the Spitzen Leichtathletik meet in Lucerne yesterday, with Shirvington third in 10.19sec.

Trials in the days before she flew to Europe showed 20-year-old Commonwealth gold medallist Pittman, from Sydney’s Hills district, was running faster than Flintoff-King did in her 1988 Seoul Olympic gold medal race.

Pittman’s prospects have been enhanced by the withdrawal of last year’s world No.1, Russia’s Yulia Pechonkina.

Those racing in Oslo include Romania’s European champion Ionela Tirlea, America’s Sandra Glover, South Africa’s Surita Febbraio and the Ukraine’s powerful Tatjana Tereshchuk.

To reassure Pittman that even if she races into a strong headwind she can run fast, Jana’s coach, Debbie’s husband Phil King, ran her to the second last hurdle running 15 strides between each barrier. “I wanted to show her she’s got an ace of diamonds up her sleeve,” King said.

Flintoff-King could run 15 strides only to hurdle five and had to run 16 strides for the second half of the race. Yet Flintoff-King’s Seoul winning time of 53.17sec remains the national record.

In her most recent trial, Pittman touched down at hurdle eight in 37.7sec.

“Jana would have to slow down by a whole second on what Debbie ran in Seoul not to break 54 seconds,” King said. If she gets a favourable lane on the difficult six-lane Bislett track, Pittman plans to use 14 strides between barriers which should make her even faster.

Fellow Sydneysider Shirvington, who is determined to join Johnson in the sub-10 club, will also line up in the Oslo meet. Shirvo will be hoping the steady improvement which has seen him clock successive 100m races in 10.31sec, 10.25sec and 10.17sec will continue tonight.

Johnson opened his European tour in Lucerne with a heat win in 10.06sec (tailwind 0.2m/sec) and won the final in 10.13sec (headwind 0.5m/sec) from Jamaican Asafa Powell with Shirvington third.