Athletics: Holmes listed for Athlete of the Year

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The Independent Online

She has Already turned down the offer of an evening in the company of Tom Cruise and now she could have a date with the son of Grace Kelly.

She has Already turned down the offer of an evening in the company of Tom Cruise and now she could have a date with the son of Grace Kelly.

A fortnight ago, Kelly Holmes was unable to accompany Cruise, her Parkinson co-star, to the London premiere of his latest Hollywood production, Collateral. The golden girl of British athletics is already in Monaco, though, for the conclusion to the season, centred around the IAAF World Athletics Finals at the Stade Louis II today and tomorrow, and she is available to attend the World Athletics Gala at the Grimaldi Forum tomorrow night, at which Prince Albert is to present the World Athlete of the Year awards.

It would be fitting if the Kent woman who struck gold twice in Athens last month were to receive the women's award in recognition of her double feat from someone who has carved his own niche as an Olympian. As plain Albert Grimaldi, the Monegasque prince has competed a record five times as a bobsleigher. The trouble is, Holmes could be upstaged in the running for the women's award by the young Russian woman who has broken the world pole vault record five times this summer.

There was not much separating Holmes and Yelena Isinbayeva yesterday. They were sitting side by side in the Grand Hotel when it was announced that they had both been shortlisted, together with Tonique Williams-Darling, the unbeaten Olympic 400 metres champion from the Bahamas, Carolina Kluft, Sweden's Olympic heptathlon gold medallist, and Veronica Campbell, the Olympic 200m champion from Jamaica.

Williams-Darling was in attendance, too, and when asked which other contender she would vote for she replied unhesitatingly: "Kelly. She has two Olympic gold medals." Holmes returned the compliment. "I would say Tonique," she said. "She's had a fantastic season."

Isinbayeva looked nonplussed when the question was put to her. "I don't think about this question," she said, in perfect English and perfect seriousness. "I think it will be me." It brought down the house at the pre-meeting press conference.

Isinbayeva has made a habit of stealing the show this year. The upwardly mobile 22-year-old from Volgograd has set world records in winning the world indoor title in Budapest and the Olympic title in Athens and if she clears 4.93m here in the Stade Louis II tomorrow Holmes could be looking at the consolation prize.

Holmes intends to contest the 1500m today and possibly the 800m tomorrow, even though she still feels "physically and psychologically wiped out" by her Olympic campaign.

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