Athletics: Black Reaches New Heights
Mike Rowbottom reports from Birmingham, The Independent (London, England)
Roger Black, who first broke the British 400 metres record 10 years ago, recovered it at the combined Olympic trials and Securicor AAA Championships here yesterday in a race which took the domestic event to a new level.
Black, who turned 30 in March, secured his place in Atlanta by winning in 44.39sec, taking 0.08sec off the time David Grindley set at the 1992 Olympics. In his wake, unprecedentedly, he dragged three other British runners under 45 seconds.
Du'Aine Ladejo, who beat Black to the European title two years ago, defied general expectation by taking the second automatic qualifying place in a personal best of 44.66sec, with Iwan Thomas taking third place in 44.69, 0.03sec ahead of fellow Welshman Jamie Baulch.
Ladejo and Black then engaged in a press conference exchange more reminiscent of a boxing occasion which ended with Ladejo betting pounds 1,000 that he would beat Black's record this season.
Black, whose career has reached new heights after repeated problems with illness and injury, expressed delight at regaining the record he first gained in winning the 1986 European Championships in 44.59sec. "I have been missing this record," Black said. "I have been Britain's No1 400m runner throughout the last 10 years. Sometimes other people have come along, sometimes they haven't."
Ladejo responded: "I am sorry to say this, Roger, but you won't be holding that record for long."
Black, barely maintaining his exasperation - "Oh no, Du'Aine. You are so predictable" - then responded with a challenge: "How much money do you want that you will run 44.39 this year? Put your money where your mouth is."
To which Ladejo responded, "Okay. I'll put a grand on it."
It was the second fastest 400m time of the year for Black, who, despite equalling his previous best last year, gambled on having a cartilage operation before Christmas which has left him running pain-free for the last five months. "This business is not difficult when you are healthy," he said. The business on the track, at any rate. …