O'Sullivan is still on schedule


SONlA O'SULLIVAN'S preparations for next month's world indoor athletics championships are still on schedule after the third consecutive win of her Australian tour in Adelaide.

Unlike her earlier successes in Canberra and Sydney, however, she was made to work hard before subduing the challenges of the two local runners, Kate Anderson and Natalie Harvey, in the 1,500 metres.

After appearing to break the Australian midway through the last lap, O'Sullivan had to brace herself for a counter-attack before getting home in four minutes 10.09 seconds. Anderson had figures of 4:10.88 in second place with Harvey timed at 4:13.24.

O'Sullivan's time was almost 11 seconds outside her national record, but she was still pleased with her performance, which she described as another wake up call. "I am delighted to be running so well at this time of year. Hopefully it's a sign of a good season ahead," she said.

"There were two or three runners in the race capable of breaking 4:10, so I knew it was going to be a competitive race. But in the end I handled it fairly well."

O'Sullivan's next run will be over 3,000m at Hobart, a week next Sunday, and she will then contest the mile in the Melbourne Grand Prix before finalising her plans for the world indoor tests in Paris.

Surprisingly, Anderson later turned out in the 10,000m race but, not surprisingly, failed to finish in a race won by Kylie Risk in 32:42.72.

Melinda Gainsford won the 100m from Lauren Hewitt in 11.49, and then completed the double by taking the 200m in 23.15.

Back in the Northern Hemisphere, Catherina McKiernan made a highly encouraging return to competition in France on Saturday when finishing second to Romania's Elena Fidatov in the latest race in the IAAF World Cross Country Challenge series.

After missing the opening months of the season with a foot injury, McKiernan belied her lack of competitive running by finishing within eight seconds of the flying Romanian who was given a time of 17 minutes exactly for the 5.4 km journey.

It was Fidatov's fourth win in the series in which only Gete Wami, of Ethiopia, the Olympic 10,000m bronze medallist, has realistic hope of catching her. But McKiernan was afterwards happy with her achievement in shaking off the challenges of South Africa's Colleen de Reuck and Britain's Paula Radcliffe to finish second.

"I'm really happy," said McKiernan. "Everything felt all right, I just did not have enough speed to hang on to Elena though.

"Because of all the training I've lost, I knew before the race that I wasn't running fast enough to win it. But in every other respect, it was a very encouraging day for me," she said.

The pair will lock horns again on the Algarve next Sunday before McKiernan goes to train at altitude in New Mexico in order to get herself in shape for the World Cross Country Championships in seven weeks' time.

Yesterday, Mark Mandy (23) broke the Irish high jump record for the 10th time in recent years by clearing two metres 26 cm to win the English midland championships in Birmingham. More important for Mandy is that the leap means he has reached the qualifying standard for next month's world indoor championships in Paris. Mandy finished 23rd in Atlanta last summer, his first Olympics.

Meanwhile, Britain's Linford Christie signed off before a two-month coaching and training trip to Australia with a sprint double at an indoor meeting in Stuttgart, Germany, yesterday.

The former Olympic and world 100 metres champion won the 60 metres in a photo-finish with Jamaican Michael Green and also took the 200 metres in 20.70 seconds.

Christie's training and business partner, Colin Jackson, was also a winner, claiming the 60 metres hurdles by beating American Mark Crear by 0.05 second in 7.47.

However, both Britons had to take a back seat behind Morocco's Hicham El Guerrouj, who slashed almost three seconds off the 1,500 metres world record.

He registered a new mark of three minutes, 31.18 seconds, shattering Algerian Noureddine Morceli's six-year-old record of 3:34.16 set in Seville, Spain.

Ethiopian Olympic champion Haile Gebreselassie, second behind El Guerrouj, also beat Morceli's time finishing in 3:32.9.

For El Guerrouj it was overdue compensation for the fall that cost him a medal in the Olympic 1,500 metres final last year, his superior pace and finishing speed easing him away from the Ethiopian.

There was an unpleasant surprise for American 100 metres Olympic champion Gail Devers. She finished only fifth in the 60 metres behind Christie Opara, of Nigeria.