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Athletics: MLF minus coach Platt in Helsinki.

Byline: By Harry Jack

If Mark Lewis-Francis thought his preparations for next month's world championships were not going particularly well, they got even worse yesterday when his coach, Steve Platt, revealed he would not be staying with his charge for the games in Helsinki.

Platt will travel with the 22-year-old to the holding camp in Turku for the build-up to the championships but before the first gun goes he will return home to Walsall and watch Lewis-Francis take on the cream of world sprinting on television.

The news, caused by UK Athletics' decision not to fund travel for individual coaches because of the smaller size of the Great Britain team, is another body blow to the Birchfield Harrier.

Lewis-Francis is battling to overcome the effects of a hamstring injury, sustained at the world championship trials in Manchester, and has not run for nearly three weeks.

Those AAAs championships followed a positive drugs test for cannabis earlier this year, making what should have been a break-out campaign one full of distraction and difficulty.

Platt's decision is just the latest of many setbacks. 'Mark isn't very happy about it,' he said. 'But staying on until the relays would cost about pounds 1,000 in accommodation alone and I can't afford money like that.

'There are two 100 metres heats on Saturday and the semis and the final on Sunday and I'll be speaking to Mark each day.'

As for the athlete's fitness, he's a little more optimistic, saying: 'He's about 90 per cent now. I'd have preferred him to have a race or two before Helsinki but nothing quite fitted in'.

It's not perfect preparation but the important thing is that he gains confidence in the heats. If he does well in those I can see him making the final without doubt.'

Meanwhile, Lewis-Francis' Great Britain team-mate, Marlon Devonish, is much more upbeat about his prospects and claims he has finally shaken off a reputation as a relay specialist.

The Coventry Godiva sprinter was with Lewis-Francis in the British 4x100m team that won Olympic gold in Athens last summer but, as much as he enjoyed that memorable night, Devonish wants to be recognised as a medal-winning athlete in his own right.

Which is why his selection to run the 100m and 200m in Finland is so important. He said: 'I've never doubled up before but both are going well and I'm excited about competing. I wanted to stamp down my potential as an individual - and it's happened.'

In a six-year international career Devonish has collected Olympic, European and two Commonwealth golds as well as world silver as part of the British relay team but has claimed only a European and Commonwealth bronze over 200m. He is desperate for that to change, saying: 'I was getting renowned for being a relay runner. Nine times out of ten athletics is an individual sport and I kind of take offence to the relay tag.

'I've had great achievements over 100m and 200m but have been overshadowed by better performances from other athletes. So my main objective this year was to put myself on the map not only as a relay athlete but as an individual as well. When I found out I'd been selected for both sprints in Helsinki I was so excited.'

He will be less enamoured to hear the views of the promoter of today's Bislett Games in Oslo. British athletes were dismissed as being not good enough for his Golden League meeting. Svein Arne Hansen has invited only three British athletes to the prestigious grand prix, underlining the huge amount of work required for the country to be challenging for medals across the board at the 2012 Olympics in London.

'There are not many good ones,' he said. 'We would like to have the British here. As the president of the federation of Norway, I'm very sad that in many events Norwegians are better than the Brits.'

Only miler Nick McCormick, Jo Pavey in the 3,000m and Neil Speaight in the 1500m will line up in the new Bislett Stadium for the third leg of the IAAF Golden League series. Twenty years ago almost 40 British athletes took part in one of the most high-profile meetings of any season.

Elsewhere, former 100m world record-holder Maurice Greene is in the US team for the world championships. He missed out on a place in the 100m after pulling up lame with a hamstring injury in the US trials but has is in the sprint relay squad, which includes Olympic champions Jason Gatlin (100m) and Shawn Crawford (200m

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Steve Platt's travel will not be funded by UK Athletics; Jade Johnson, the Herne Hill Harriers and Great Britain long jumper, can be a big talent if she overcomes injury, says legendary Heike Dreschler
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jul 29, 2005
Words:800
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