Athletics: Holmes and Radcliffe boost Britain's hopes

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The Independent Online

The chances of Britain's women regaining their top European Cup status took a seismic jump yesterday as Kelly Holmes and Paula Radcliffe pledged themselves to the event in two weeks' time after outings over 1500 metres on either side of the Atlantic.

The chances of Britain's women regaining their top European Cup status took a seismic jump yesterday as Kelly Holmes and Paula Radcliffe pledged themselves to the event in two weeks' time after outings over 1500 metres on either side of the Atlantic.

Holmes sent the spectators at the Norwich Union International home with a glow after holding off two leading Russians to win her first outdoor domestic race since taking two Olympic golds, finishing in 4min 6.52sec at the Scotstoun Stadium.

Radcliffe, meanwhile, announced her intention to run in Portugal after finishing sixth in her race at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Oregon, despite having to regain her feet after a fall 800m from the end. Her time of 4min 13.13sec was eight seconds shy of the personal best she set four years ago, but in the circumstances the performance was enough to convince her she was ready to run for Britain.

"Given how it went here, I hope I'll be in shape to run a decent 5,000m in the European Cup," she said. "I've got to ring the selectors and let them know how I went, but I want to do it."

Although Holmes's task in the metric mile was not as severe as Radcliffe's, her field included Yelena Sobolyeva, who arrived as second fastest in this year's world rankings with 4min 3.71sec, and Yelena Zadorozhnaya, a sub four-minute runner.

"I was nervous beforehand because Zadorozhnaya has beaten me before," Holmes said. But she never looked in danger after breaking clear with 200m to go. She will seek to run the 800m in Leiria in order to maximise the chances of the team getting back to the SuperLeague after last year's relegation, with Helen Clitheroe taking the 1500m place.

Radcliffe had had three weeks' preparation for her race in Eugene after recovering from her winning run at this year's London Marathon. "I knew I was cutting it really fine, but then I don't get a chance to run many 1500s," she said. "The problem is, how can you run a good 1500m when you are running 145 miles a week?"

The world marathon record holder said the fall had been caused by an overcrowded field. "I thought I'd missed the pile-up," she said, "but then I found myself sprawling."

The sky in Glasgow may have been a dull grey, but there was a vivid reminder of Athens in the 100m as Mark Lewis-Francis, who secured the Olympic sprint relay title last summer by holding off Maurice Greene on the last leg, did the trick once again.

The 22-year-old Birmingham athlete, making his first domestic appearance since being stripped of his European indoor 60m silver medal after testing positive for cannabis, finished 0.01sec clear of the former world record holder in 10.43sec despite a headwind, with his relay team-mate Jason Gardener third in 10.50.

"I'm a positive athlete," Lewis-Francis announced - less than ideally in the circumstances. "I've had a minor setback and it's been a difficult few weeks, but I'm on the right track."

It was an ideal response for Lewis-Francis and he is drawing comfort from it because it was four years since he has beaten Greene, and he went on that season to run 9.97sec at the Edmonton World Championships.

"It was just like the Olympics," said the 30-year-old American. "I thought I had him there, and I thought I had him here too."

Greene decided against running in yesterday's sprint relay, but Lewis-Francis - anchoring a team which contained three of the four who had struck gold in Greece - secured his second victory of the day by 0.02sec for a time of 38.93sec.

Malachi Davis, Britain's adopted US 400m runner, contributed maximum points with a 400m time of 46.48sec, as did Jo Pavey, who won the 3,000min 8min 45.79sec. Britain's Olympic heptathlon bronze medallist Kelly Sotherton also produced the goods with a wind-assisted long jump of 6.64m to place third behind Russia's Olympic silver medallist Irina Simagina, who won with 6.88m.

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