ATHLETICS: Holmes pays heavy price for pulling out of trials

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The Independent Online
IT IS a measure of Kelly Holmes's transformed status that she can equably contemplate a fine of pounds 25,000 for missing this weekend's Norwich Union AAA Championships and European trials in Sheffield, which lost another Olympic gold medallist when Mark Lewis-Francis pulled out of the 60 metres as a precaution after his recent hamstring injury.

Under a rule established last year following a series of damaging no- shows at national trials, athletes failing to turn up are deducted 25 per cent of their fees for either the indoor or outdoor season. The double Olympic champion, currently training in South Africa, is estimated to be receiving pounds 100,000 for last month's appearance in Glasgow and her scheduled race in next Friday's Birmingham Grand Prix.

A spokesman for Fast Track, which promotes British athletics, confirmed Holmes would be fined, adding that the consequences of her failure to participate had been explained to her. A spokeswoman for Holmes's management team said yesterday: "This is a standard fine, and Kelly was aware of it when she was negotiating her indoor appearances."

Holmes may yet decide to take part in next month's European Indoor Championships, but she will leave her decision until after she has completed the 1,000m race at the National Indoor Arena. UK Athletics, which was aware Holmes never intended to do the trials, still has the option to select her for Madrid on 4-6 March under its "exceptional circumstances" rule.

While Holmes's absence was expected, that of Lewis-Francis, who sustained a minor tear to his hamstring while running in Birmingham on 29 January, is a severe blow, not least to the BBC, who had hoped to televise live his meeting with fellow Olympic relay champion Jason Gardener over 60m tomorrow.

Lewis-Francis was advised not to risk running by a UK Athletics doctor based at his training venue in Birmingham. Thus Gardener, the world indoor 60m champion last year, will find his task significantly simpler, although he faces a challenge from Mark Findlay, who has won all five of his indoor races so far this year with a best of 6.67sec.

Findlay, who tried without success to gain a place in the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic relay squad last year, could get close to 6.60 on the Sheffield Arena track. Gardener, who ran 6.56 in Ghent last weekend, will be seeking another swift run to set himself up for Friday's meeting with the likes of Maurice Greene and, assuming he recovers, Lewis-Francis.

Jade Johnson, whose indoor season appeared to be over when she hobbled away from the long jump pit in Glasgow with a back injury, is fit to compete after her problem was diagnosed as being only a muscle spasm. But the European and Commonwealth silver medallist will need to be at her best to defeat Olympic heptathlon bronze medallist Kelly Sotherton, who plans to compete in four events at Sheffield - the shot and long jump today, and the high jump and hurdles tomorrow.

The trials also mark a return for Phillips Idowu, whose high hopes in the Olympic triple jump ended in traumatic failure. Among his opponents in tomorrow's final is Jonathan Moore, making his first triple-jump appearance since the serious knee injury he sustained at Bedford three years ago.

The 800m should see James McIlroy holding off the Welshman who has already achieved the European qualifying mark of 1min 49sec this season, student Jimmy Watkins. And the 200m offers Chris Lambert the chance to show he can perform after two less than successful outings in Glasgow and Ghent.