Athletics: Holmes out to beat 800m mark

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The Independent Online

Kelly Holmes continues her Olympic preparations today when she races over 800 metres for the first time this summer.

Kelly Holmes continues her Olympic preparations today when she races over 800 metres for the first time this summer.

The British record holder, 34, from Kent competes in San Sebastian after announcing earlier this week that she will attempt to gain selection for Athens in both the 800m and 1500m. Holmes had a comfortable 1500m win in last Sunday's British Grand Prix but believes she needs a few 800m races to sharpen herself up.

At San Sebastian, Holmes, last year's world 800m silver medallist, faces the former world indoor 1500m champion Hasna Benhassi, a Moroccan opponent who gives Holmes a great chance to beat the Olympic qualifying standard of exactly two minutes because she recently ran 1min 59.87sec.

The former world mile record holder Steve Cram sees nothing wrong in Michael East attempting to double up over 800m and 1,500m at the Olympic Games.

But Cram, who with Peter Elliott was the last British athlete to tackle the heavy programme of that double at the Seoul Olympics in 1988 , believes the option is now tougher.

The New Zealander Peter Snell was the last athlete to complete the double when winning both races at the 1964 Games in Tokyo - and the first man to achieve the feat since Britain's Albert Hill in 1920.

"The 800m is a much more specialised event now than it was in my day," Cram said. "I think there are already more than a dozen runners under 1min 45sec this year. It is a difficult one to call, but with the 800m coming after the 1500m, if he feels he can take the programme on, why not?"

Cram said: "It is a very tall order in the modern era and I can see why he wants to keep his options open. But Michael is a very strong athlete and this should help him in the qualifying rounds which are normally slow, tactical races."

East, who will race over 800m in the Olympic trials in Manchester on 10 and 11 July, said: "I don't think I will get the standard at the trials, but if I finished in the top two there, then the next target would be to set up a couple of races to try to get the qualifying time."

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