Athletics: Holmes trails badly as career stays in balance

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The Independent Online

It was a literal interpretation of going out with a bang - although the 35-year-old double Olympic champion remains enigmatic about when she will actually extinguish her brilliant career.

Having effectively made it to Sheffield on one leg after extended treatment to the Achilles injury which ruled her out of this month's World Championships, the question of whether she would extend her competitive life to the Commonwealth Games which take place in Melbourne seven months from now seemed almost academic.

She is not ruling it out, yet, insisting that she will make a decision in November after "sorting out" her injury. That would require England's selectors to include her, provisionally, in the team they announce next month - which should not prove problematic.

But her problems soon became evident here as she struggled to finish her 800 metres, walking over the line in seventh place with a rueful grin before rubbing the leg that had so obviously undermined her final home flourish.

In a meeting that has traditionally provided British medallists at major championships the opportunity to undertake a "fly-past", it was starkly evident that the only domestic celebration involved a goodbye. Of those who did earn medals in Helsinki, Marlon Devonish had the happiest day, equalling his personal best of 10.13sec in a 100 metres won by Kim Collins in 10.01sec before taking fourth in 20.48sec in a 200m won by the world champion Justin Gatlin in 20.04sec.

Three of the four bronze medallists in the women's 400m relay appeared in the individual event, but fourth was the best they could manage, through Christine Ohuruogu, in a race won by the 20-year-old American Sanya Richards in 49.77sec.

Almost 20 years to the day since Zola Budd set a world 5,000m record of 14min 48.07sec in London, there were high hopes here that the world 5,000m and 10,000m champion Tirunesh Dibaba would be able to beat 14min 24.68sec, the mark set by Turkey's Elvan Abeylegesse last year.

It looked on for about five laps, but then the pace slipped as Dibaba, whose only opposition over the last six laps was her sister Ejegayehu, appeared to be suffering a pain in her right side. Although she managed a final sprint, she looked subdued after managing a time of 14min 51.77sec.

Tim Benjamin, whose performance in Zurich two days earlier indicated just how weary he was at the end of a season in which his winter training was undermined by a back injection that went badly wrong, appeared in danger of falling asleep on the back straight of the 400m. But the 23-year-old Welshman roused himself on the final run-in to move through to second behind the Commonwealth champion Michael Blackwood. The Jamaican won in 45.29sec, with Benjamin clocking 45.49sec.

The men's long jump saw the American Olympic and world champion Dwight Phillips set himself up for victory with an effort of 8.38m - before his colleague Miguel Pate won with 8.45m. It was a crushing demonstration of American strength-in-depth. Britain's best hope, Chris Tomlinson, showed he is still not fully recovered from illness and injury as he managed a best of only 7.82m.