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Athletics: Morgan's sick at missing out n; Birchfield Harrier long jumper fails to defy illness at the NIA ATHLETICS.

Byline: By Leon Hickman

THE bout of sickness in Birmingham laid low a dozen-or-so schools, a hospital and, unfortunately for his World Championship hopes, long jumper Nathan Morgan.

The 2002 Commonwealth champion lives in Great Barr, which amounts to the epicentre of the Brumademic, and he spent a good deal of his preparation time for the Norwich Union Grand Prix heaving into a bowl.

When it came to his last attempt to reach the 8.10m target for qualification for the World Indoor Championships next month, Morgan tried to forget that nauseous feeling and tore down the runway as if in fear for his life.

The lift wasn't quite there, though, and he landed 8cm short, still claiming second place in a high-quality NIA competition, but as frustrated as only a man who has forsaken his Commonwealth defence and failed to claim compensation can be.

Was he now disappointed that he had chosen to try for the Moscow event rather than travel to Australia for the Games?

The Birchfield Harrier shrugged his shoulders.

"No, man, I made my decision because I've already done the Commonwealth thing," he said. "I have been ill in bed with a stomach bug and my body wouldn't quite respond. I jumped out well but my legs just fell as I landed.

"It's not the best run-up with bumps and that but I tried my best and competed here quite well.''

By splitting the world No1 and No2, Ignisious Gaisah (Ghana) on 8.03m and Salim Sidri (France) 8.01m, Morgan did his standing no harm but has to wait four months before jumping the distances that do his talent full justice.

Commuting from North Carolina to Birmingham is not ideal preparation, even for less than a minute of frenetic endeavour, but that is what Daniel Caines is committed to since restructuring his career.

Still a little frazzled from his latest flight, the 26-year-old ran with typical bravery in a 400m race he was destined to lose the moment Rob Tobin unstretched his 6ft 3ins frame around the final bend to win in 46.20secs.

Tobin, from Basingstoke, is the new-model British quarter-miler and, from here on, Birchfield Harrier Caines and the others have some catching up to do.

Caines should not be disheartened, though. When he returns to Europe in a fortnight's time, he'll be a contender for a place on the starting line in the final in Moscow.

Like Todd Bennett, Tobin's coach, Caines is an indoors natural. He instinctively hares a fast first lap and attacks the bends, making him such a difficult target to overtake. The tactic nearly worked on Saturday and will undoubtedly do so on another day when Caines is fully recovered from a series of knee injuries and has the races inside him.

"If I run under 46secs in Moscow I'll be in the mix," he said. "I didn't employ the best tactics here, I went off too fast and I was very tired in the last 40m. I know I'm still ring rusty but I'm still in one piece and that's pleasing."

Caines was right about an energy-sapping start. The Solihull man crossed the halfway point at 21.18secs. Tobin, whose personal best over 200m is 21.33, appeared stranded six metres behind. It was far too fast to last and the price was third place for Caines in 46.51, having been passed by Jamaica's Davian Clarke too.

Under scrutiny after being separated during a verbal spat at the national championships, long jumpers Kelly Sotherton and Jade Johnson stayed at arm's length this time but again Birchfield's Olympic bronze medalist marked the sand well ahead of the Commonwealth runner-up.

Johnson is recovering from serious injury and it showed. By comparison, the slender Sotherton was aero-dynamic, clearing 6.50m as did Concepcion Montaner, the Spaniard who won on countback.

Sotherton might not have been all that pleased at coming eighth in 8.29secs in the 60m hurdles but she surely knows that, barring accidents - there are plenty of those in the heptathlon - she will be in shape in Melbourne to take her first major gold medal.

That would be a particularly impressive piece of self-discipline, not to mention feminine empowerment, bearing in mind her decision to swap one coach for six and look after her own organisation and general well-being.


DANIEL CAINES' SO CLOSE... Nathan Morgan fails to make the qualification target for the World Indoor Championships.' KELLY SOTHERTON.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Feb 20, 2006
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