Frankie Fredericks... older, wiser and faster

Frankie Fredericks is around 10 years older than his nearest rivals in the sprints at the Manchester Commonwealth Games. But he’s also faster.

The 34-year-old Namibian returned this season from three years of injury troubles to clock the second fastest times in the world in both the 100 and 200 meters.

Fredericks, who has four Olympic silvers in the 100 and 200, won the 200 at the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria, British Columbia, and finished second in the 100 in 1998 at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

In his attempt to complete the set, Fredericks will also be looking for Namibia’s second-ever Commonwealth Games gold when the heats are held on Friday.

“I don’t have a 100 gold so it might be best to try for that one,” he said. “But maybe it will be easier in the 200.
I just hope that I can stay healthy so I can race these young guys in Manchester. The Commonwealth Games is important to me. It’s a major competition.

His 100 best was 9,94 seconds in Windhoek, Namibia, in April.

Maurice Greene has the season’s best of 9,89.

A week before the games, Fredericks ran 19,99 in the 200 at the Golden League race in Rome, second only to American Shawn Crawford’s season best of 19,85.

With defending champion Ato Boldon absent, Frederick’s main rival for the 100 meters is England’s Dwain Chambers, who has a season’s best of 10,03. Teenage rival Mark Lewis-Francis has run 10,04 while Nigeria’s Deji Alui also has a chance to make the medals.

In the 200, South African Morne Nagel has a season’s best of 20,10 which makes him a contender along with Stephan Buckland from Mauritius and England’s Marlon Devonish and Darren Campbell.

The men’s and women’s 100 is contested on Saturday at the City of Manchester stadium, with the 200 raced on Monday.

In the women’s 100, Jamaica’s Tayna Lawrence is the favourite.

Lawrence has pushed Olympic champion Marion Jones throughout the season and is the only Commonwealth athlete to have gone under 11 seconds this year.

Her main competition will be from three members of the Bahama’s 4x100 meters Olympic gold medal relay team - defending champion Chandra Sturrup, who raced 11,01 seconds in May, Debbie Ferguson and Sevatheda Fynes.

Ferguson is also a strong chance in the 200, along with Jamaican’s Beverly McDonald, a Sydney Olympic silver medalist in the 4x400 relay, and 1998 silver medalist Juliet Campbell. Cydonie Mothersille, one of two athletes representing the Cayman Islands, is also a contender.

Australian Olympic 400 meters gold medalist Cathy Freeman is only running the 4x400 meters relay, but is bound to be a crowd favourite. Canadian 100 meters star Bruny Surin also makes a relay appearance, which will be his last race after 10 years at the top.

Iwan Thomas, who won the Commonwealth 400 meters title for Wales in 1998 and the European championship for Britain the same summer, has decided not to defend because he’s well short of form after two years out because of injuries. He didn’t qualify for the Europeans which take place next month at Munich.

World record holder Colin Jackson bids for his third Commonwealth Games gold in the 110 hurdles while Jonathan Edwards, Olympic and world champion and world record holder in the triple jump, bids to win his first Commonwealth title after being runner up twice.

Another Olympic champion, Maria Mutola of Mozambique, is back to defend her 800 meters title. London Marathon winner Paula Radcliffe seeks to win her first gold medal of an international athletics meet and is favourite for the 5 000 meters.

The men’s pole vault has a strong field, with world champion Dmitry Markov of Australia and South Africa’s Okkert Brits, who have both cleared 6.00 meters. Other contenders are Kuala Lumpur silver medalist Paul Burgess and fellow Australian Viktor Chistiakov, who has the best height (5,77 meters) of Commonwealth pole vaulters this year.

Chistiakov’s wife, Olympic silver medalist Tatiana Grigorieva is the favourite in the women’s pole vault. The competition was clouded by the positive drug test and subsequent suspension of England medal hope Janine Whitlock last month.

A strong Kenyan team is likely to dominate the distance events.

Jacqueline Maranga is defending her 1 500 title and former Rotterdam marathon champion Susan Chepkemei in the 10 000.

The men’s team is without Olympic 1 500 meters gold medallist Noah Ngeny and Bernard Lagat, which gives William Chirchir the chance to win his first Commonwealth title.

Benjamin Limo is likely to win the 5 000, having set the second fastest time (12:57.27) this year. Defending 800 meters champion Japheth Kimutai returns, while Olympic silver medalist Eric Wainaina is favorite to win the marathon.

Joining the list of absent stars on Wednesday - which includes Denise Lewis, Boldon and Merlene Ottey - was sprinter Darrel Brown of Trinidad and South African 800-meter runner Hezekiel Sepeng.

Brown, the world’s fastest sprinter under 18, is skipping the games, citing fatigue. Brown was to travel from Kingston, Jamaica, where he won gold in the World Junior Championships with a record-breaking 10,09 seconds in the 100-meter race.

Sepeng failed to arrive in Manchester from Europe. He is believed to be returning to South Africa to get treatment for an undisclosed injury. Officials want him to be treated in Manchester instead.

“It is our opinion that, should we get hold of Hezekiel Sepeng, that he should arrive at the Commonwealth Games where he will be assessed by our team,” South African medical officer Ismail Jakoet said. “I think they are capable enough to assess Hezekiel Sepeng should he be harbouring an injury.”

The six-day athletics competition is breaking with tradition and being held at the beginning of the games to allow athletes eligible to also attend the European athletics championships in Munich, Germany, from Aug. 6-11. That mainly applies to the athletes from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland who will go to the Europeans as Britain. - Sapa-AP

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