Athletics: Holmes upset by Russian charge

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The Independent Online

Kelly Holmes insisted yesterday that she was capable of beating her friend and training partner Maria Mutola, who won gold to her silver in Tuesday's 800 metres final. And she added that she would not hesitate to do so despite all the help and encouragement the Mozambique runner has offered her over the last year.

The two athletes are due to meet again a week tomorrow over 800 metres in the IAAF Golden League meeting in Brussels, where Mutola needs to win to secure the $1m jackpot on offer to any athlete completing the six-meeting series unbeaten.

Earlier this month Holmes - who will not compete in the 1500 metres here - said that if she were running in that race she would not deny her friend the victory, although at that stage she was planning to concentrate on the longer distance.

Yesterday, speaking in a conference room halfway up the Eiffel Tower, she took a loftier view, brushing her words off as "a tongue-in-cheek comment" and denying that there was anything which would hold her back from beating the world and Olympic champion if she were able.

"If that situation arises I'm going to just do it," she said. "I'll go for it. When you get in a race you have to try and win.

"If training goes well I believe I have a great shot at beating Maria, if not this year then next year. At the end of the day, I'm still a rival."

The 33-year-old Olympic bronze medallist, whose season has been disrupted by a calf injury, admitted she had been annoyed by the speculation after her final that Mutola had helped to set her up for a run to the line, a charge levelled by the Russian bronze medallist, Natalya Khruschelova.

"It does get to you when people criticise," Holmes said. "Why can't they just give me the respect for what I've tried to achieve? It's as if they're always trying to undermine me.

"I've won 11 major medals, and I've had injury problems since 1996. I've had five medals from the last six major championships. How many people can say that? I rise to the occasion.

"The only issue here is the fact that Maria and I come from different countries. We know that Ethiopians and Kenyans help each other out and no one complains about that.

"The Russian could have come past me on the inside lane. I had my own plan to take it easy on the first lap and go between 250 and 180 metres from the end. Maria went to the front because she wanted to avoid getting caught up - she was nearly tripped in the heats."

Holmes added that, having delayed her decision to enter the Championships until an hour before the deadline, she entered the 800m only in the expectation of getting practice for the 1500m.

"I only took the decision after the semi-final," she said with a grin. "That's the truth. It could have been a bad decision - but it turned out to be a good one."