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Athletics: Harewood patrols medal beat at world indoor event

Karen Harewood, a former policewoman, carries Britain's best medal hopes into the World Indoor Championships, which begin in Moscow today.

Britain have claimed at least one medal at each renewal of the indoor championships, which were first staged in Paris 21 years ago. But a clash with the Commonwealth Games means that the home nations are sending their best athletes to Melbourne, so British hopes rest largely on Harewood in the 800 metres.

Behind the Russians Olga Kotlyarova and Natalya Tsyganova, Harewood, 30, is the third fastest of the entrants this season. "I'm thrilled I am going to be competing against world-class talent and I believe I can handle it," Harewood said yesterday. "This will be the first time I have competed at a major championships and I am sure it will be very tactical, but I'm hopeful of doing well."

With a best time of 2min 00:53sec Harewood, from Corby, in Northamptonshire, has run faster indoors this year than any other British woman, including Kelly Holmes, did in 2005. "I don't feel a lot of pressure but externally there is some," Harewood added. "I do expect a lot from myself, but this is not just another race - it is a championship race and tactics will play an important part. But if I can make the final, there will be just five other people to worry about and, yes, I do believe in myself."

Joining Harewood in the 800m will be Jenny Meadows, who beat her at the trials in Sheffield last month, while defending her title will be Maria Mutola, whose best time this year has been fractionally slower than Harewood's.

Tim Abeyie and Mark Findlay begin their 60m campaigns at the Championships today, although neither is expected to emulate Jason Gardener's gold medal of two years ago in Budapest. The Welshman Jimmy Watkins competes in the 800m while Colin McCourt and Neil Speaight must take on tough opposition over 1500m.

Joice Maduaka, the first Briton in action this morning, faces a difficult task in her 60m race and will do well to match the semi-final place she earned at the last Championships.