Athletics: Injury forces Holmes out of indoor showpiece

Dame Kelly Holmes has reluctantly withdrawn from this weekend's European Indoor Championships after suffering an injury just at the point when she felt ready to compete.

Dame Kelly Holmes has reluctantly withdrawn from this weekend's European Indoor Championships after suffering an injury just at the point when she felt ready to compete.

The 34-year-old double Olympic champion picked up a slight tear in her hamstring while completing a training session at her base in Potchefstroom, South Africa, on Saturday evening.

At that point Holmes, who had previously been concerned about her level of fitness, had decided to compete in Madrid this weekend after an upturn of form in her sessions earlier last week, culminating in a decisive session on Thursday.

"It went really well and that was the day I made up my mind to compete in Madrid," said Holmes, who had been given the option of running either the 800 or the 1500 metres. "But I decided to wait before telling anyone, as I still wasn't totally certain in my own mind which distance I wanted to race over." Holmes had the blessing of her American coach, Margot Jennings, to compete and planned to inform the selectors early this week of her availability, but her plans were soon altered.

"On Saturday everything went wrong for my plans when I pulled my hamstring on running the last bend on my final 200 metres of the night," she said. "I was going really, really well when I felt a massive spasm in my left leg and my hamstring blew. I've never had one before - normally it is my calves where I suffer effects from a long-term back problem. I saw the doctor here and he has said it is not serious - only a first-degree internal tear.

"I can hardly walk at the moment and I won't be able to do any running for two or three weeks although I'll be keeping fit as best I can.

"It's frustrating missing Madrid, this happening when I knew I was in great shape." Holmes is not expected to compete until the summer although she is returning home from South Africa to receive her award at Buckingham Palace on 9 March after being made a Dame in the New Year's Honours List.

"It was Sod's Law," said Max Jones, the performance director for UK Athletics, "because although she hasn't been happy with her training, it had started to go really, really well for her.

"If it had been the Olympics in a week's time, it would have been worth taking a risk. But, as it is, she is likely to be out for a couple of weeks before starting her preparations for the outdoor season. I'm sure she would have won either the 800 or the 1500 if she had been in shape. But we've still got a team of 45 going, and there will be others who will produce the goods."

Holmes has never taken part in a European Indoor Championships and although she seemed far from certain earlier this month that she would be able to run in Madrid, even after her convincing 1,000m victory in Birmingham on 18 February, it is a huge piece of bad luck for this to have happened at a point when she seemed ready.

Her memories of indoor championships are not good. At last year's Word Indoors she finished in tears after falling. Maybe next year will see her first big indoor success.

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