ATHLETICS: FIVE MEDAL CONTENDERS TO FOLLOW IN PARIS

Hicham El Guerrouj (1500m)

This 22-year-old Moroccan who has trained with his famous fellow countryman, Said Aouita, has confirmed his huge talent this year with two world indoor records - 3min 31.18sec for 1500m and 3:48.45 for the mile. El Guerrouj, whose hopes of defeating Noureddine Morceli in the Olympic 1500m final disappeared when he tripped and fell, has recovered from injury and is ready to make a further impact.

Mary Decker-Slaney (1500m)

The 38-year-old US athlete, who captured the headlines as a 14-year-old when she ran for her country against the Soviet Union in 1973, returned to top level action last weekend at the US trials where she recorded 4:03.08, the fastest time in the world for seven years. Her targets in Paris: a sub-4min run and an 18th world record.

Haile Gebrselassie (3,000m)

The Olympic 10,000m champion has shown extraordinary range indoors this year, breaking the world 5,000m record (12:59.04), running 7:31.27 for 3,000 and 3:32.39 for 1500. That versatility should see the phenomenal Ethiopian through a highly competitive event in Paris.

Emma George (pole vault)

The 23-year-old Australian, once an acrobat in a children's circus troupe named The Flying Fruit Flies, has directed her natural agility towards an event which makes its debut in major championships this weekend. George, who has the world indoor record of 4.40m, has been in outstanding form outdoors recently, improving her world record from 4.45 to 4.50 to 4.55 in a matter of weeks.

Wilson Kipketer (800m)

After the Kenyan-born runner's frustration of not being able to run the Olympics because his Danish nationality had not been fully established, he gained a measure of consolation by running 1:41.83 at the end of the season, the third-fastest ever recorded. He is said to be saving himself for a big performance in Paris and Paul Ereng's world record of 1:44.84, set in 1989, appears well within Kipketer's capacity.

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