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Michael Owen wanted by Strictly Come Dancing and I"m a Celebrity

Race to sign Owen hots up – but it's Strictly and I'm a Celebrity doing battle!

By
Paul Collins

PUBLISHED:

12:27 GMT, 3 April 2013

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UPDATED:

17:12 GMT, 3 April 2013

Michael Owen may have failed his screen test to head BT Sport’s new analysis team — but the BBC and ITV are still in a fight to sign him up.

It has been reported that the Stoke striker, who has recently announced he will retire at the end of the season, is at the centre of TV battle between the makers of Strictly Come Dancing and I’m a Celebrity.

Both networks are apparently trying to sign for the autumn series of both shows.

Dancefloor or jungle How Owen might look on Strictly (left) and I'm a Celebrity

Dancefloor or jungle How Owen might look on Strictly (left) and I'm a Celebrity

In demand: The clamour to sign up Owen is in full swing

In demand: The clamour to sign up Owen is in full swing

Retiring: The former England striker, now at Stoke, will call it a day next month

Retiring: The former England striker, now at Stoke, will call it a day next month

Owen is to become a BBC television and radio pundit in his retirement, having made occasional appearances on Match of the Day already this season.

BT Sport, who need a marquee signing from the dressing room to head the analysts team for their Premier League coverage next season, could have been expected to jump at the chance to sign such an illustrious footballer as Owen, whose services have been strongly touted to them.

But the word inside BT headquarters in the Olympic Park is that Owen’s ‘monotone’ displays on the BBC have been considered ‘poor’, although it will help Owen’s Beeb future that their lead presenter Gary Lineker has been supportive.

The first confirmed pundit appointment
for Owen is at Royal Ascot. Racehorse owner and breeder Owen is on a
panel of experts who will be giving tips to the 570-a-head patrons of
the prime Bessborough Restaurant on the Thursday of the Royal meeting in
June.

Owen is also planning to launch a player agency business when he retires from professional football at the end of this season.

Frozen out: Owen has had limited first-team opportunities at Stoke

Frozen out: Owen has had limited first-team opportunities at Stoke

Stoke City centre forward Owen, who has previously starred for Liverpool, Real Madrid and Manchester United, will hang up his boots at the end of his season, bringing the curtain down on a difficult few years in which he has sustained several serious injuries that have chronically limited his game-time.

In a blog on his website former England man Owen explained: ‘On July 1, I propose to set up Michael Owen Management Ltd. focusing on guiding young players through their careers and offering them advice at every juncture of what can be a career full of pitfalls.’

Norwich complain over alleged racial abuse at Sebastien Bassong

Norwich use Twitter grabs in complaint to police over alleged racist abuse aimed at Bassong

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UPDATED:

18:31 GMT, 26 November 2012

Norwich have made a formal complaint to police over alleged racist tweets directed at defender Sebastien Bassong.

The Canaries confirmed they had passed on evidence to Norfolk Constabulary which was supplied to them by supporters in the wake of Saturday's Barclays Premier League draw at Everton.

It is understood Norwich have sent police screen-grabs of tweets that have since been deleted from Twitter accounts that no longer exist.

Levelling up: Sebastien Bassong earns a point for Norwich with his late goal

Levelling up: Sebastien Bassong earns a point for Norwich with his late goal

Manager Chris Hughton told a press
conference today it was 'hugely disappointing' to learn of the alleged
abuse of Bassong, who scored a stoppage-time equaliser in the 1-1 draw
at Goodison Park.

He added of the tweets: 'We have taken the appropriate action and passed them on to police.'

The alleged racist abuse of Bassong
took place almost a year to the day that Norwich reported similar tweets
directed at former Everton striker James Vaughan.

Bassong's goal at Goodison extended
the Canaries' unbeaten run to seven matches in all competitions ahead of
Wednesday's trip to Southampton, which is followed by games against
Sunderland, Swansea, Aston Villa and Wigan.

Hughton's men will be confident of
maintaining their good form, although the settled line-up could be
disrupted by injuries to John Ruddy and Michael Turner.

Hughton confirmed Turner would be out
for 'a few weeks' with the shoulder injury that kept him out of the
Everton game, which saw Ruddy substituted late on with a thigh problem.

Heading for a draw: Bassong was allegedly racially abused on Twitter

Heading for a draw: Bassong was allegedly racially abused on Twitter

If Ruddy fails to recover, Mark Bunn will make his first Premier League start for the club.

After an awful start to the season, Southampton have hauled themselves out of the drop zone with back-to-back wins.

Hughton said: 'They have been playing well and come into it on the back of two great wins, so we know that it will be tough.

'We are also on a good run of results and need to maintain our recent high standards on Wednesday evening.'

Wednesday's match also heralds the return of Mark Clattenburg to refereeing following the dismissal of allegations he racially abused Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel.

The 37-year-old was the fourth official in Tottenham's win over West Ham yesterday but Wednesday will mark a month since he was last the man in the middle.

Hughton said: 'I think he will get a good reception.

'I, for one, am certainly pleased he is back after all that happened.'

Miguel Angel Jimenez becomes oldest winner on European Tour

Jimenez becomes oldest winner on European Tour after one-stroke victory at UBS Hong Kong Open

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UPDATED:

11:36 GMT, 18 November 2012

Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez today became the oldest winner in European Tour history.

Only seven weeks away from his 49th birthday, Jimenez took the UBS Hong Kong Open for a third time with a one-stroke victory over Swede Fredrik Andersson Hed.

The former Ryder Cup player's 19th Tour title – and 12th since he turned 40 – came without a single bogey in his last 54 holes.

Sealed with a kiss: Miguel Angel Jimenez became the oldest winner of a European Tour event

Sealed with a kiss: Miguel Angel Jimenez became the oldest winner of a European Tour event

He finished with a 65 for 15 under par, Andersson Hed's 64 having an agonising climax when a 12-foot birdie attempt on the last dribbled down the slope and lipped out.

Australian Marcus Fraser was third and joint fourth came Ireland's Peter Lawrie, Scot Stephen Gallacher and 19-year-old Italian Matteo Manassero, last week's Singapore Open champion.

New Zealander Michael Campbell, joint overnight leader with Jimenez, fell away to joint eighth.

This win marked a hat-trick of Hong Kong victories for the Spaniard, who also won the tournament in 2004 and 2007.

Andersson Hed finished before Jimenez, leaving him needing to par the 18th to secure the win.

Lining it up: Jimenez was consistent on all four days at the UBS Hong Kong Open

Lining it up: Jimenez was consistent on all four days at the UBS Hong Kong Open

Lining it up: Jimenez was consistent on all four days at the UBS Hong Kong Open

Jimenez said: ‘I saw Andersson had a 14-under-par and I knew I just had to concentrate, keep my pace, keep my rhythm and keep hitting the ball the way I was hitting it.’

At the age of 48 years and 318 days, Jimenez was glad to take the record from Des Smyth, who won the 2001 Madeira Islands Open aged 48 and 34 days.

‘It's an honour to make a record,’ he added. ‘And I hope it isn't the last one.’

Jimenez was consistent throughout the tournament, hitting 65, 67, 68 and 65 at the par-70 course.

Smoke screen: Jimenez can't be seen behind as he holds the trophy after sealing victory

Smoke screen: Jimenez can't be seen behind as he holds the trophy after sealing victory

Jamie Carragher: I"d have loved to have won the title at Liverpool but there was always someone better than us

Jamie Carragher: I'd have loved to have won the title at Liverpool but there was always someone better than us

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UPDATED:

22:04 GMT, 15 September 2012

Sharp: Jamie Carragher spoke about a wide range of subjects

Sharp: Jamie Carragher spoke about a wide range of subjects

The interview is over and just a photograph remains to be taken. For almost an hour, Jamie Carragher has been talking about his limited future in the game and the reality that he will never now win the Premier League with Liverpool. But as we walk out of the interview room, his eyes are immediately drawn to a television screen at Liverpool’s Melwood Training Ground.

A sombre David Cameron is beginning his statement on the Hillsborough disaster 23 years ago and Carragher is transfixed, as is the receptionist opposite him. No one breaks the silence as we watch the Prime Minister prepare the ground for an historic apology. It is fully five minutes before Carragher breaks off to complete his duties, unnecessarily apologising himself. It is entirely understandable that here, of all places, a club should stand still as the truth about Hillsborough is revealed.

The receptionist says she was just eight years old at the time of the disaster on April 15 1989. Carragher was a little older, 11, and an Everton fan who, on that fateful day, was at the other FA Cup semi-final, at Villa Park. A few hours after our interview, Carragher represented Liverpool Football Club at the city’s Hillsborough vigil, reading out some of the names of the tragedy’s 96 victims.

Earlier he had discussed the disaster and the impact it has had on the club and the city. It was not the reason for our interview but, given the coincidence of meeting on such a momentous day, it was a natural topic.

‘That era was when I started going to watch football and it was actually shocking,’ he recalls. ‘You stood at the front behind the goal and watched the game with a fence six inches from your face. How could you really see the game through these bars’

He admits that, even as a Liverpudlian and a football fan, it has been only in recent years that he has begun to comprehend the enormity of what happened on the day of Liverpool’s semi-final against Nottingham Forest.

‘I was at the other semi-final, the Everton one,’ he says. ‘As a kid, you don’t really understand what happened. As you grow up, you understand a bit more but it’s when you’ve got your own kids and you hear the stories of a family saying, “I sent my child off in the morning and they didn’t come back”, that’s when it hits you. Even if you get justice today, you can never get over that.’

Tragedy: Carragher was watching Everton as events at Hillsborough unfolded

Tragedy: Carragher was watching Everton as events at Hillsborough unfolded

Carragher has the knack of finding the right words. But he is not just the Bootle boy made good, a Liverpool link to a team and a club long since overtaken by globalisation. His charisma allows him to provide leadership and maintain a connection with the fans.

Roaring success: Carragher is determined to make the most of this season

Roaring success: Carragher is determined to make the most of this season

But we may be seeing the last of Carragher, the player, anyway. When he talks about the season ahead, it is almost wistfully. He is in the last year of his contract. There is a chance he will not be offered another.

‘To be honest, I’ve got a year to go,’ he says. ‘I don’t want to think about it too much — even though I do think about it a lot. It might be my last year in football. I just want to enjoy it as much as possible.’

It seems conceivable that he will play for another club. He explains how he never enjoyed watching the Spanish star Raul play for German club Schalke because, he says, ‘it always saddened me when he left Real Madrid. I just thought, “He IS Real Madrid”. It doesn’t look right. It’s special when you’ve played for one team.’

But the prospect of retirement from playing is not a fearful one for Carragher. ‘It doesn’t worry me,’ he says. ‘It’s not that I’m thinking, “Oh I’m devastated about it”. Probably when I stop playing, I’ll feel that a bit more. But when you play for such a big club for so long, it’s intense every single day and I’ve probably had that for 16 or 17 years.

‘I wouldn’t say I’m looking forward to finishing, that would be wrong, but I wouldn’t say I’m terrified about it either. When it does finish I can look back and say, “That was brilliant, that was great.” But being a local lad playing for Liverpool is intense. And it’s not just on match days, it’s every single day. But that’s because of the club you play for and that’s the price of the ticket, that’s what every player wants.

Glee: Carragher shared in the club's triumph the Champions League victory in Istanbul in 2005. But he asks: 'Were we really ever good enough to win the title'

Glee: Carragher shared in the club's triumph the Champions League victory in Istanbul in 2005. But he asks: 'Were we really ever good enough to win the title'

‘At times it can be difficult, especially the last few years when it hasn’t gone well. It’s great when you’re winning, fantastic. When you’re not, it’s the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning and the last thing you think of when you go to bed. People say, “Do you enjoy winning” But sometimes you win a game and you’re just happy that you haven’t got the feeling you have when you lose. It’s a bit like, “Thank **** we haven’t lost”.’

He is reminded how Andy Murray explained that his overwhelming feeling on winning the US Open on Monday was relief. ‘Yeah! Yeah! It’s not joy,’ says Carragher. ‘You’re so happy that you haven’t lost. That’s what it is sometimes. Sometimes when you play for a big club, you’re expected to win, so it’s not a big thing unless it’s a cup final or a massive game against Manchester United or Everton.

‘It’s not so much I’m worried about the Press hammering us. A lot of the time it’s just relief that you haven’t got that sick feeling for a few days.’

Because sportsmen are often not good at confronting home truths, it is tentatively suggested that he is never going to win the league with Liverpool.

Part of the furniture: Carragher joined Liverpool's youth team in 1990

Part of the furniture: Carragher joined Liverpool's youth team in 1990

‘No I’m not,’ he responds immediately. ‘Because this could be my last season and we’re not going to win the league this year. I couldn’t see it happening next year either. That’s not being defeatist — I don’t want that to be the headline! But realistically our target is the top four.’

He will, of course, always have
Istanbul, the never-to-be-forgotten night in 2005 when he and Steven
Gerrard led the team to Champions League glory. And there are FA Cup,
Carling Cup, UEFA Cup, UEFA Super Cup winners’ medals and 38 England
caps as well. But it is 22 years and counting since Liverpool’s last
league title, which has been the obsession of the club throughout
Carragher’s career. So does he approach retirement with regrets

‘Yes
and no,’ he says. ‘I’d love to have won the league for Liverpool as
it’s been so long. But were we ever really good enough We never threw
it away. There was always someone better than us.

‘These
players who say, “Oh, I’ve won the league three times.” They’ve been at
Chelsea or United but they’re not a regular. They play all over the
place, they come in, they go out. I could do that. I could do that for
Chelsea or United, not a problem.

‘But
I’ve been one of the main players for Liverpool, winning the European
Cup, winning the Cup treble. OK, I’m probably jealous of Giggs and
Scholes and their titles and European Cups. But I played for my team my
whole life and I’ve been one of the main players in what we’ve done. I
could have won the league going somewhere else and just playing 25
games. I’m good enough to have won the league. I’m not trying to sound
big-headed but more often than not we’ve had one of the best defensive
records each season.’

Carragher went closest to the title in the 2008-09 season, when Liverpool chased United all the way and were just four points behind United with a better goal difference at the end of the campaign. Three years and three managers later, the gap between the clubs looks more like a chasm. Liverpool’s second place has given way to finishes of seventh, sixth and eighth.

Given the dysfunctional nature of the club under the previous ownership of Americans Tom Hicks and George Gillett, it seems extraordinary that they ever got as close to the title as runners-up, although Carragher partially disagrees.

‘We had a good team then,’ he says. ‘When they (Hicks and Gillett) were there, we bought some good players. Torres came in, we got Mascherano and Skrtel in there. Obviously towards the end the owners wanted to go. The supporters were against them and rightly so, because no one at Liverpool likes to be kidded along. When you see what they said about the stadium and putting the debt on the club, that was the worst thing for me.’

Double act: George Gillett (left) and Tom Hicks and were vilified by Liverpool fans - rightly, according to Carragher, who says: 'No-one likes to be kidded along'

Double act: George Gillett (left) and Tom Hicks and were vilified by Liverpool fans – rightly, according to Carragher, who says: 'No-one likes to be kidded along'

But he cautions persistent critics, drawing a link with the criticism of those past owners and the disappointment that has been expressed recently at the club’s failure to sign a replacement for on-loan striker Andy Carroll in the summer transfer window.

‘Obviously we’re all disappointed. The manager’s disappointed and we’re disappointed as players,’ says Carragher.

‘But we can’t go into the next few games and when we lose go, “Ah, but we’ve got to wait until we get to January and the next window. The results now don’t matter”. They do matter. We’re still a big club, we’ve still got good players, whether we missed out on a striker at the end of the window. That’s tough. Get on with it. Don’t use it as an excuse. I hate people making excuses all the time. It winds me up.’

Carragher speaks with enthusiasm about the arrival of Brendan Rodgers. ‘I’ve loved it,’ he says. ‘Training has been fantastic. He’s a great communicator, a great man-manager.’ But the suggestion the new man’s tactics may not suit Carragher riles him. ‘I get frustrated when people say “Oh, you just put your foot in” or “you’re a great leader or character”. I’m not Xabi Alonso but I can play football, I can pass the ball. I’ve done it my whole life, I’ve played from the back,’ he says.

Still, the scale of Rodgers’s task is clearly considerable. ‘Things have changed from when we were in the top four every year,’ says Carragher. ‘Without being defeatist, you always knew Chelsea and United were going for the league and us and Arsenal were trying to catch them.

‘But as soon as Manchester City got money, it was a reality that eventually they were going to get into the top four. I always thought it would be us or Arsenal who would be going out of the top four. The first time we got that bit of a challenge from City and Tottenham we finished seventh and we’ve just never been able to get back up there.

‘That’s the target now for us, to get back in the top four this season. The way the game is, we’ve got to be careful that this doesn’t go on and on.

‘But listen, great clubs always come back and Liverpool are one of them. Obviously the last few years haven’t been great for us but I don’t think Liverpool will never be back up there.’

And he must be right. Liverpool probably will get back up there eventually. But, sadly, it will in all likelihood be without Jamie Carragher.

So proud to be a Brit! Sun sets on gold summer and sport is the winner

So proud to be a Brit! Sun sets on gold summer and sport is the winner

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UPDATED:

21:42 GMT, 9 September 2012

Champion: Sarah Story

Champion: Sarah Story

As you wake up on Monday morning, wondering how life can ever be the same without the Olympic and Paralympic flames burning in a corner of east London, just watch out for shards on the floor.

The Opening Ceremony of the Paralympics promised the Games would smash the glass ceiling regarding people's perceptions of disability sport. Eleven days later, that ceiling lies in pieces.

This was the summer that Britain re-ignited its love affair with sport.

It has not mattered whether it was
Olympic or Paralympic sport as long as it was great sport; sport that
made you scream at your television screen or trek across the country to
sit in a stadium and feel part of it all.

The sold-out stadiums and the hordes of people queuing to watch a
morning session of Paralympic athletics all helped to make the London
Games the best yet, but it was the action going on inside these
amphitheatres that provided the real breakthrough.

'It was absolutely crazy,' said Jonnie Peacock, who heard 80,000 people
chanting his name before he won gold in the T44 100 metres.

'The crowd made it come alive. No athlete comes back thinking, “I didn't enjoy that, it was scary”.

'I was so proud to be British and so proud to have that crowd behind me.'

Just as the Olympic cynics were bowled over by wave after wave of British success a month ago, the achievements of home-grown athletes have played a vital part in the Paralympics' success.

It is why 50million was invested in our Paralympic team over the past four years.

It's all well and good putting on the best party the world has ever seen, but it's no good if someone else turns up and drinks the bar dry.

The atmosphere in the Aquatics Centre reached levels of hysteria we did not see at the Olympics as the hosts won seven gold medals, 16 silvers and 16 bronze.

Sensation: Gold medalist Jonnie Peacock

Sensation: Gold medalist Jonnie Peacock

Every member of the Para-equestrian team won a gold medal, although Lee Pearson could not match the three titles he won at three previous Games, and we had two triple gold medallists – Natasha Baker and Sophie Christiansen.

Athletics went from producing two golds in 2008 to 11 in 2012.

Britain won two medals in sailing for the first time since the sport was introduced to the Paralympics in 2000 and, although they did not match the feats of Beijing, the track cycling team still comfortably topped the medal table.

We didn't have it all our own way, however.

Paralympics GB surpassed their target of 103 medals by winning 120 but won fewer gold medals than four years ago in Beijing: 34 as opposed to 42.

It pushed Great Britain down to third in the medals table, meaning they missed their aim of finishing second because they were overtaken by Russia.

Staggering: Ellie Simmonds

Staggering: Ellie Simmonds

'We are third in the medal table, which does rankle just a tad,' said Penny Briscoe, Paralympics GB's deputy chef de mission.

'But we are ahead of all our closest competitors in terms of total medals won.

'More sports have delivered medals than ever before and we've taken medals in a quarter of all events held.'

Genuine stars such as David Weir and Sarah Storey have broken records for their staggering levels of success, winning four gold medals each, but, perhaps even better, the Games have uncovered a new breed of British talent.

Athletes like Peacock, 19; double Paralympic champion Hannah Cockroft, 20 – who dominated in the T34 100m and 200m – and 15-year-old Josef Craig, who broke the world record twice on his way to winning gold in the S7 400m freestyle.

Then there is Ellie Simmonds: still only 17 but already a grand dame of British sport with four golds, a silver and bronze from two Paralympic Games.

These exciting youngsters have excelled performing in front of packed arenas. They will want even more now.

Star: David Weir

Star: David Weir

Whether the public's love affair with Paralympic sport will endure is a question we can answer only in five or 10 years' time, but perhaps there is even better to come from British athletes in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

Peter Eriksson, UK Athletics' Paralympics head coach, said: 'I always wanted to stay until 2016 because the first thing I said when I got here, in an interview which I got in trouble for, was the best performance from this team will come then.

'I believe that still about 2016.

'Why move down from the top of the Premier League to the third division It's not fun.'

The Closing Ceremony on Sunday night was a 'festival of flame' and London certainly has had a slightly giddy festival feel over the past six weeks.

That flame has done strange things to people, prompting grown men to dress up in red, white and blue and many of us to consider sport, and particularly Paralympic sport, in a very different way.

'I've been banging on about it for years,' said Weir.

'And it's about time that we get some recognition because we are super-humans and we are phenomenal athletes.

'I'm just honoured to see that Paralympic sport has got recognition like it should do.'

Consider that ceiling smashed.

How athletics is still scarred by the reign of the chemical sisters

How athletics is still scarred by the reign of the chemical sisters

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UPDATED:

21:38 GMT, 6 August 2012

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LIVE RESULTS |
EVENT SCHEDULE |
MEDALS TABLE

The narrative of these Olympic Games has been punctuated by inspirational performances from female athletes. But, as the focus shifts to the athletics stadium, it is difficult to avoid a curious and troubling statistical conundrum.

When you compare the times being run in 2012 with those that appear on your television screen as the current world records, it might look as if there has been a drop in standards among the women competing in London.

In the 100 metres on Saturday, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce did not threaten Florence Griffith-Joyner’s mark. At 10.75, she was more than a quarter of a second down. In the 400m on Sunday, the best part of two seconds separated the winning time from the ‘WR’. Tirunesh Dibaba’s winning time for the 10,000m this year was almost a minute off world record pace, even if she was faster in Beijing in 2008.

Gold run: Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce wins the women's 100m, but her time of 10.75secs was slower than the Florence Griffith-Joyner's world record of 10.49 secs

Gold run: Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce wins the women's 100m, but her time of 10.75secs was slower than the Florence Griffith-Joyner's world record of 10.49 secs

Some of the world records are there to be broken and others — in particular many of the women’s athletics records — look like they could be there for ever.

‘They are eternal,’ German doping expert Professor Werner Franke told Sportsmail. ‘Just too good.’

These are records set when East was competing against West; when athletes emerged from the Eastern Bloc and China to produce the most extraordinary performances.

From the 100m to the 1500m (barring the 400m hurdles), a women’s world record has not been broken since 1993. The same goes for the 3,000m and the 10,000m. There have, however, been records broken in the relatively new Olympic events of 5,000m and the steeplechase.

Most of the records date back to the 1980s. It is much the same in the field events — the high jump, long jump, shot put and discus records were set in that decade.

Controversial: Florence Griffith-Joyner always denied she took drugs

Controversial: Florence Griffith-Joyner always denied she took drugs

The 100m and 200m records were run in
1988 by Griffith-Joyner. The American’s times of 10.49sec and 21.34sec
have so far proved impossible for the sprinters of today to match. The
closest since the turn of the century in the 100m 10.64. And in the
200m 21.69. Even with modern training methods and the natural evolution
of sporting performance, nobody has yet come close to beating Flo-Jo.

She never failed a drugs test and protested her innocence of doping until the day she died, 14 years ago, aged 38. But the Flo-Jo of 1987 was vastly different to the Flo-Jo of 1988, and it was not just a massive improvement in her performances.

Her physique had changed. She was far more muscular. Her voice had changed, too. Something that became evident when a comparison was made between a BBC interview she gave in 1984 and one four years later.

In his autobiography, Carl Lewis reflected on Flo-Jo’s performances at the US trials, and then at the Seoul Olympics that followed, as ‘a change that came too quickly for the imagination’.

‘Her physical appearance alone, muscles popping everywhere, made a lot of people wonder,’ Lewis wrote. ‘Then there was the voice, much deeper than it had been.’

Before Flo-Jo came Marita Koch, whose 400m world record is perhaps the most staggering of all. On October 6, 1985 the East German obliterated a field in Canberra, crossing the line in 47.6. Sanya Richards-Ross took gold in 49.55 on Sunday, with Britain’s Christine Ohuruogu second in 49.70.

To this day, Koch denies using performance-enhancing drugs, but East German secret police files from the time tell a different story.

There was a letter from Koch complaining that Barbel Wockel, a European champion over 200m, was being given stronger doses of steroids because her uncle was president of the pharmaceutical company that provided drugs to the East German athletics authorities.

Tarnished: Marita Koch carries the baton in Moscow

Tarnished: Marita Koch carries the baton in Moscow

This appeared in a book, entitled Doping Dokumente and published in 1991, that Franke wrote with his wife, Brigitte Berendonk. Franke, a professor of cell and molecular biology at the German Cancer Research Centre in Heidelberg, was asked by all parties of the German parliament to study the Stasi documents and produce a report on doping in East German sport. With his wife he uncovered a list of annual dosages of oral turinabol administered to Koch and the other leading athletes.

‘They were giving more to the women than they were the men,’ Franke said. ‘Very high dosages. The case of Heidi Krieger was very disturbing.’

From the age of 16, Franke discovered, Krieger was unknowingly given dosages way in excess of those taken by Ben Johnson before he won gold in the 1988 Games. /08/06/article-0-037AB0050000044D-957_306x423.jpg” width=”306″ height=”423″ alt=”Sex change: Heidi Krieger became Andreas Krieger in 1997″ class=”blkBorder” />

Sex change: Heidi Krieger became Andreas Krieger in 1997

Sex change: Heidi Krieger became Andreas Krieger in 1997

‘We know why some of those records have not been broken,’ said Franke. ‘But the fact the times are much slower now points to a significantly cleaner sport.’

The test for human growth hormone was not introduced until 1985. Two years earlier, the Czechoslovakian Jarmila Kratochvilova set an 800m record that still stands. It was 1:53.28, and is almost three seconds quicker than the best Kelly Holmes managed to run.

Kratochvilova never failed a drugs test and continues to insist she was clean. But her masculine, muscular physique shocked the sporting world, as did the fact that she set her record in her first appearance at the distance — at the age of 32. Her world record is the longest standing in athletics.

Turtle blood: Ma

Turtle blood: Ma

In the early Nineties a new breed of
athletes appeared, this time from China. Ma Junren coached to incredible
times a group of distance runners who became known as Ma’s Army. Set in
1993, Qu Yunxia’s 1500m world record of 3:50.96 still stands — and it
looks safe for years to come. The fastest time since 2000 is 3:55.33,
with double Olympic champion Holmes running 3:57.9 at her best.

At
the time, Ma claimed his athletes’ performances were being boosted by
the consumption of turtle blood. But shortly before the 2000 Olympics,
China withdrew 27 athletes from their Olympic team, including six
runners trained by Ma who had tested positive for erythropoietin, the
banned blood doping drug better known as EPO. Ma was also fired from the
Chinese coaching staff.

Wang Junxia was another Ma athlete and her 1993 3,000m and 10,000m records stand, while the high jump, long jump, discus and shot put records that date back to the Eighties are also held by athletes from Eastern Bloc countries.

How have the records survived when some athletes will still be cheating Well, it may be because the drugs being used in the 1980s were more powerful than those taken by modern-day athletes.

How women have lost their mojo

The scientific advances made in testing have made it impossible for female athletes to use male hormone drugs. Disgraced American sprinter Marion Jones used the designer steroid known as ‘the clear’ — tetrahydrogestrinone — but it was not powerful enough to propel her close to Flo-Jo’s times.

Christina Boxer finished fourth for Great Britain in the 1500m at the 1988 Olympics. Ahead of her, in third, came Tetyana Dorovskikh, the then Soviet runner who also won gold in the 3,000m in Seoul only to then fail a drugs test in 1993.

‘If you take a male hormone it’s going to have a far greater effect on a female athlete,’ Boxer told Sportsmail. ‘I ran against athletes I was sure were on drugs; athletes who could not get near their best times once the Berlin Wall came down.’

Victor Conte, the founder of the California-based BALCO laboratory that provided Dwain Chambers with his drugs, estimated that drugs can help a sprinter lower his best by 0.2sec, while a woman can shave 0.4sec off her time.

The German Athletics Federation actually wanted to mark the millennium by erasing some of their records if the IAAF, the world governing body, agreed to do the same. However, all those records stand.

Veronica Campbell-Brown, in London to defend her Olympic 200m title, once complained of the extra attention her male counterparts receive in her native Jamaica.

‘It’s based on the fact the world record in the 100m and 200m for men is reachable,’ she said. ‘It is hard for me to think about the world record.’

Her best time At 21.74 she is exactly 0.4sec slower than Flo-Jo.

LONDON OLYMPICS 2012: Sir Steve Redgrave wears special sideburns in tribute to Bradley Wiggins

Goggle Eyes: Sir Steve happy to pay special tribute to Wiggins

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UPDATED:

23:53 GMT, 2 August 2012

Sideburn rip-off

Sir Steve Redgrave was sporting his homemade pair of Bradley Wiggins sideburns, fashioned out of tape. The facial adornments certainly made the now second-most decorated British Olympian wince when he ripped them off. Ouch!

Special tribute: Sir Steve Redgrave at Eton Dorney on Thursday

Special tribute: Sir Steve Redgrave at Eton Dorney on Thursday

Ahead of the Games

The tennis schedule may have been disrupted by rain but the umpire in Andy Murray’s game was 90 years ahead of the rest of us. Wonder who will run the bid campaign for London 2102. Lord Coe might be a little past it…

Thumbs up for…

The yellow world record line:

This graphical device, labelled WR on screen, moves with the swimmers down the pool and indicates when they are on for a fast time. The Olympic record (OR) version may confuse the Beeb’s French viewers, however, if they think it refers to ‘gold’.

Thumbs down for…

Information blackout:

No on-screen cumulative scores during the boxing bouts and no on-screen information during the gymnastics to tell us a competitor’s name and their ranking. Why not If it is an attempt to create tension, it is frustrating. The Beeb’s graphics department is getting off lightly at the moment.

SAY WHAT
Hazel Irvine

‘If the scores are tied, there will be a sudden-death shoot-off’

Sounds a bit extreme, Hazel Irvine, even if we are talking about the shooting competition

PUNDITS’ FORM GUIDE…

John Lloyd, tennis ……….8/10

Called strength of Murray’s opponents well and dished the dry humour. ‘He’s made a Horlicks of that,’ said the
commentator. ‘Other branded messes are available,’ came Lloyd’s reply.

Helen Reeves, canoeing………….. 7/10

Suitably enthusiastic and easy to follow.

Nicola Fairbrother, judo…………………..5/10

Must have had an off-day on judo’s biggest Olympic occasion for many years. Normally excellent, but the phrase ‘waiting game’ was all she had for Gemma Gibbons’s fights.

Richie Woodhall, boxing……………9/10

Fantastic, concise commentary of Anthony Ogogo’s bout, adding zest to the upset.

David Haye vows to KO Dereck Chisora early on at Upton Park

'Crazy' Chisora issues warning after Haye vows to end grudge fight with early KO

|

UPDATED:

14:24 GMT, 11 July 2012

Dereck Chisora has responded to David Haye's prediction of an early end to their grudge match by declaring he would be the 'craziest' ever in the ring.

The British rivals, separated by a steel fence and flanked by security guards, came head to head in the final press conference before Saturday's showdown at Upton Park.

Screen test: David Haye (left) Dereck Chisora are kept apart (again)

Screen test: David Haye (left) Dereck Chisora are kept apart (again)

Screen test: David Haye (left) Dereck Chisora are kept apart (again)

The disgraceful scenes in Munich were universally condemned, but they have been given the chance to settle their differences in the ring.

'Dereck's getting knocked out quick. The harder he comes the quicker he gets KO'd,' Haye said.

'My training has been good. I'm healthy, fit and fast.

Haye opened hostilities by declaring
he would knock out Chisora in the opening rounds, but his opponent
insisted he would fight fire with fire.

'I'm going to be the craziest I've been when I come into the ring,' he said.

Wind up: Haye mocks Chisora

All smiles: Haye didn't appear worried by the threat

Wind up: Haye mocks Chisora

Wind up: Haye mocks Chisora

'Everything has gone well for me, I have no injuries and it's going to be a great fight.'

Haye and Chisora traded blows at a press conference in the aftermath of Chisora's loss to Vitali Klitschko in February.

'This training camp has been one of the first I've been able to do everything we planned because nothing has broken down.

'It's a situation I've never been in before and I can feel the difference.

'My sparring partners have felt the difference as well. Unfortunately for Dereck he's fighting the best ever Hayemaker.'

Puerto Rican Luis Pabon has been confirmed as the referee for the fight.

Euro 2012: England step up plans for Italy clash

Listen up, lads: Hodgson steps up plans for crushing Italy as England count down to Sunday's showdown

By
Sportsmail Reporter

PUBLISHED:

09:59 GMT, 22 June 2012

|

UPDATED:

10:21 GMT, 22 June 2012

England returned to the training ground this morning to ramp up their preparations for Sunday's showdown with Italy.

Roy Hodgson delivered instructions for his troops at their Hutnik base in Krakow as they aim to secure a spot in the Euro 2012 semi-finals.

England are confident that they can beat the Italians in the meeting at Kiev's Olympic Stadium.

Down to business: England boss Roy Hodgson speaks with his players at the Hutnik Stadium

Down to business: England boss Roy Hodgson speaks with his players at the Hutnik Stadium

It is the first full training session since beating Ukraine, and they will follow a pattern that worked well for them earlier in the week by training there again on Saturday before flying to Kiev for a walk-round the ground.

All 23 members of the squad took part – including Ashley Young, who suffered a knock to the shin in Tuesday's Group D win over Ukraine, and Jermain Defoe, who is back with the squad after flying home to attend his father's funeral.

It was impossible to glean England's likely starting line-up from a practise exercise between those wearing bibs and those not during the open part of the session, with players who started against Ukraine scattered among the two teams.

They are also planning to defeat Italy on a computer screen before they even get on the pitch.

Raring to go: England's players are enjoying life under the management of Hodgson

Raring to go: England's players are enjoying life under the management of Hodgson

All smiles: Wayne Rooney shares a joke in training as he prepares to take on Italy on Sunday

All smiles: Wayne Rooney shares a joke in training as he prepares to take on Italy on Sunday

Sportsmail has learned of the detail involved in Hodgson's plans to advance to the last four.

Such is the swift turnaround of games here, Hodgson must quickly revise for the next examination, preparing the players for the threat posed by the Italians.

That includes absorbing the information supplied by Ian Butterworth, a former Norwich and Nottingham Forest defender and the England scout who has watched all three of Italy's group games.

Meanwhile, Gary Neville and Ray Lewington are working with the two England video technicians, Andy Scoulding and Steve O'Brien.

Scoulding is Liverpool's head of technical analysis and worked with Hodgson at Fulham, too. O'Brien is the Football Association's senior football analyst.

Upbeat: Joe Hart relaxes at the England team hotel in the centre of Krakow

Upbeat: Joe Hart relaxes at the England team hotel in the centre of Krakow

They studied Italy's matches, not just here at Euro 2012 but prior to that, searching for weaknesses and seeking an edge.

All the information is then condensed and will be presented in a 20-minute team meeting with the players.

The presentations are slick in their delivery, the coaches using infra-red zappers to make their points with carefully edited DVD footage of the team they are playing.

The aim, as one FA official explained, is not to overload the players with too much information at one time.

'Whatever the outcome on Sunday night, we won't suffer for a lack of preparation,' said the official and this was echoed by England goalkeeper Joe Hart.

Looking smart: England kit man Tom McKechnie prepares training kit at the team hotel in Poland

Looking smart: England kit man Tom McKechnie prepares training kit at the team hotel in Poland

Feeding ground: England head chef Tim De'Ath prepares lunch for the players on Thursday

Feeding ground: England head chef Tim De'Ath prepares lunch for the players on Thursday

'We're very well prepared,' said Hart. 'We know everything about all the teams we play against.' At times during a training session, Hodgson will direct a player much like a

Grandmaster moves a chess piece. It will be slow and precise, such is the England manager's meticulous approach; his attention to detail.

As well as his coaching drills, he will surprise his players by calling them together to tell a joke now and again.

The other day he told the fable of the scorpion and the frog; of how a scorpion persuades a frog to carry him across a river by pointing out that they will both drown if he stings him.

Except that the scorpion does sting the frog and with his last breath, paralysis setting in, the frog asks why.

'It's my nature,' says the scorpion before they both slip beneath the surface of the water.

Rivals: Italy, who are also based in Krakow, are stepping up their preparations

Rivals: Italy, who are also based in Krakow, are stepping up their preparations

The point The players were laughing too much to digest what Hodgson was saying. But right now it remains in England's nature to play a certain way and their boss is sticking to that plan.

He leaves the players in no doubt as to the role they must perform; both as individuals and as a team.

When it comes to the final team talk, in the dressing room before they head out into the tunnel, Hodgson keeps things very simple. He delivers a short, sharp speech to the group; a few rousing words.

By then, though, the work has been done, even if Hodgson has chosen to follow matches at this tournament in the way he would as a club manager.

There would be two recovery days after a game and it has been no different here, despite the short time to prepare between matches.

It is why those meetings – and the transfer of information to the players – is so important.

Sam Warburton Wales exclusive interview

EXCLUSIVE: Warburton ready to reign as Lion King as Wales take on the Barbarians

|

UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 1 June 2012

Torch carrier: Sam Warburton

Torch carrier: Sam Warburton

When Wales play the Barbarians in Cardiff on Saturday afternoon, Sam Warburton will be 10,400 miles away, squinting at a laptop screen.

It will be 11pm in Brisbane but he and 15 team-mates — who are already in Australia preparing for the first Test in a weeks time— will find a way to watch it.

‘Somebody will find a stream on the internet — we’ll have to,’ said Warburton. ‘In Poland, during a training camp, I remember the boys running around the hotel trying to find a stream for the Haye v Klitschko fight.

‘Loads of them were dodgy and kept cutting out, so hopefully someone can find a decent stream.’

It is unusual for the captain of a side to be in a different hemisphere during a Test match, but it is no surprise that a three-Test series against the Wallabies is the priority for Wales. For all the tub-thumping and Grand Slam glory, Wales have never beaten South Africa or New Zealand on enemy soil and they have only beaten the Aussies once, back in 1969.

The tour also happens to follow the exact route the Lions will take in 12 months — Brisbane, Melbourne and finally Sydney. Although Warren Gatland, the Lions coach-elect, is not officially joining the tour following his freak fall cleaning windows, this is an opportunity for players to show the selectors what they can do on hard ground against the Wallabies one year early.

‘If you say you haven’t thought about it you’re lying,’ said Warburton. ‘Players will play down the whole Lions thing, but it’s 12 months to go and everybody wants to play for the Lions.

‘I’m not going to make any bones about it. What motivates you to play club rugby is international rugby, what motivates you to play international rugby is to play for the Lions.

‘To play an international a year before the Lions tour in Australia and have the chance to put in some big performances, that’s huge.

Main man: Warburton hopes to lead Wales to success this summer

Main man: Warburton hopes to lead Wales to success this summer

SATURDAY LINE-UPS

WALES: Liam Williams (Scarlets);
Robinson (Cardiff), Bishop (Ospreys),
Hook (Perpignan), Brew (Dragons); Biggar (Ospreys), Lloyd Williams (Cardiff); Gill (Saracens), Rees (Scarlets, capt), Rhodri Jones (Scarlets), AW Jones (Ospreys), Evans (Ospreys), Turnbull (Scarlets), Tipuric (Ospreys), Ryan Jones (Ospreys).

Substitutes: Hibbard (Ospreys), James (Ospreys), Shingler (Scarlets), M Williams (Cardiff), Webb (Ospreys), Warren (Scarlets), Harries (Dragons).

BARBARIANS: Muliaina; Nacewa, Laulala, Tindall, Williams; Donald, Rees; Jones, August, Smit (capt); O’Driscoll, Chisholm; Louw, Gorgodze, Beattie.

Substitutes: De Malmanche, Tialata, Van Zyl, Qera, Lawson, Tagicakibau, Heymans.

Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland).

TV: LIVE on S4C from 1.25pm and BBC2

Wales from 1.30pm (Kick-off 2pm).

‘I’m sure the boys will be looking forward to stepping up to that challenge, seeing where those big performances can take you.

‘The Lions is the distant target in mind but our priority has got to be the Test series win first.’

To many, Warburton is a natural choice for Lions captain. He is honest and unassuming, a Grand Slam-winning skipper and already has a working relationship in place with the likely bulk of the coaching set-up. He is also passionate and hungry.

‘Back in the 2009 Lions tour to South Africa, I was still living with my parents watching on the sofa at home,’ he said. ‘I just remember watching Jamie Roberts and Brian O’Driscoll carve it up.

‘That’s my memory of the tour, O’Driscoll on the gain line throwing a discreet shoulder ball and Jamie just hammering it up.

‘It was a good tour from a Welsh perspective. Adam Jones emerged as a world-class scrummager and I had a keen eye on Leigh Halfpenny at the time because we’d come through the Blues academy. I couldn’t believe he was picked at the end of his first professional season.

‘I remember watching that tour
wishing that I could be on the next one.’ Warburton (right) made his
debut for Wales that summer. It was against the USA on a tour of North
America.

‘Of that squad
there’s only about six or seven players left,’ he said, sounding like he
is surprised himself. ‘Yeah, loads of them have gone. That was only
three years ago, so if you look around now the squad has completely
transformed.

Blow: Wales coach Warren Gatland suffered an bad injury

Blow: Wales coach Warren Gatland suffered an bad injury

‘Australia is the first summer tour for a lot of us. I think that makes it quite exciting.

‘It will be a first experience and people may try to turn that into a negative but the World Cup in New Zealand was a first experience and we did all right there. We can take confidence from that.

‘I’m not trying to big us up too much but I think we could win this series. It feels like a natural stepping stone for us now after the World Cup and then the Grand Slam. Australia are one of the fittest and most skilful sides, especially on their own turf.

‘What makes it extra difficult is that they’ve just come off the back of a Super 15 tournament and they’re halfway through their season. If we think we’re going to run the legs off them like we did against some of the Six Nations teams then it will be a different story.

‘They’ll be able to keep coming so these should be great Test matches. People at home might be happy if we just win a Test but we want to win the series.’

Warburton is determined not to let Gatland’s injury upset Wales’ long-term goal of global domination. But the plan that ends in World Cup glory must begin with a Test series win on foreign soil against one of the southern hemisphere superpowers.

‘We will miss Warren, of course, because he’s such a big influence on the squad, but without him the set-up and structure is all pretty similar.

London calling: Warburton carried the Olympic torch through Cardiff

London calling: Warburton carried the Olympic torch through Cardiff

‘We go through the same routines in training, we approach Test week the same way, the foundations are all still there.

‘I was watching Sky Sports News when Warren’s injury flashed up and the first thing I did was check the date to make sure it wasn’t an April Fool. You didn’t know if it was a joke or not.

‘Then the texts started to go around all the boys and I realised how serious it was.

‘It must have been agony. Fracturing both heels It sounds like a shocking injury, worse than 90 per cent of rugby injuries. Rob Howley has been very influential in my time with Wales anyway. Having Rob as head coach doesn’t feel unusual at all.’

For Warburton personally, the Grand Slam hysteria was marred by shoulder trouble. But after three trips to London, the specialist has given him the green light to play and he says the nerves have been fine during upper-body wrestling and ‘bone-on-bone’ tackling drills.

Anyway, you sense he would be in Australia even with one working shoulder. The Lions tour is 12 months away and Warburton is ready for his audition.

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