Athletics: Lyne's run lights up night of frustration

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The Independent Online

An ill wind blustered around the Bislett Stadium last night as far as Britain's athletes were concerned ­ but it helped at least one of them as 23-year-old Rebecca Lyne produced a hugely promising performance in the 800 metres, which went some way to offsetting the earlier disappointments suffered by, among others, Tim Benjamin and Abi Oyepitan.

On a deceptively blustery night, Lyne finished strongly to take second place, a fraction behind Kenya's Janeth Jepkosgei, in a time of 2min 00.67sec. Five days earlier, the tall, blonde runner from Stockport had taken more than a second off her personal best in winning at the Hengelo meeting in 2:00.04sec, and although her time here was slightly slower, the conditions and opposition meant it was even more significant.

Things are already looking very interesting for Lyne as far as this summer's European Championships are concerned ­ although, as she sensibly pointed out in the wake of this race, her first task has to be to ensure her place in the team.

That is clearly something of a sensitive issue for an athlete who reluctantly sat out the Commonwealth Games in March having been overlooked by the selectors. The fact that Jo Fenn, one of the three 800m choices, had to drop out on the eve of competition after an injury failed to respond sufficiently well only compounded Lyne's frustration.

"It is a bit of a sore point," Lyne said. "It was difficult watching all my rivals running so well there and I was a bit disappointed. My former coach, Gordon Surtees, used to be a selector and he told me 'Never trust a selector. Make sure that you select yourself by not giving them any reason not to take you'."

The former European Under-23 champion, now fully recovered from the injury which undermined her form during last season's Commonwealth trials, was not overly surprised by her performance. "I have felt capable of running fast for the past few years, but now that I am getting into some fast races I have got the chance. I beat a lot of my European rivals in my win at Hengelo, and even though I didn't quite pull it off here I was pleased with my run."

The same could definitely not be said of Benjamin, whose bold strategy of returning after six months' injury to a top-level race failed to pay off as he struggled home seventh in a 400m won by the Olympic and world champion, Jeremy Wariner, in 44.31sec.

The 24-year-old Welshman, who missed the Commonwealth Games earlier this year because of hip and knee problems, had likened entering the opening IAAF Golden League meeting of the season to going "straight into the fire". He ended the evening badly scorched.

Benjamin had hoped that having Wariner in the same race would motivate him to register a swift time ­ "that pressure is the difference between running 44 seconds and 46 seconds". But drawn in the outside lane, he had to settle for a time that was less than he had hoped for ­ 46.01sec. Which did not please him. "It wasn't great, was it?" he said. Asked if he had come through unscathed, he said: "I don't know. I could feel stuff going on. I've got to go away and reassess."

Benjamin was not the only British athlete requiring a period of reassessment here as Mark Lewis-Francis, Jason Gardener and Marlon Devonish all failed to progress to a 100m final that was won with ease by Asafa Powell, who slowed well before the line in recording 9.98sec into a headwind of 0.9m per second. His semi-final win, in 9.96, had been effected with a similar swagger.

It was a daunting sight for Britain's sprinters, who will face the man again at Gateshead on Sunday week in a race that has now been deprived of the presence of Powell's co-world record-holder, Justin Gatlin. Looking at Powell, it was hard to imagine anyone beating him ­ but the world of athletics will have to wait for the big match-up.

Oyepitan was returning after an even longer period of injury than Benjamin ­ it was 19 months since the only British sprinter to reach an individual final at the last Olympics had raced, and she looked predictably rusty as she finished last in her 200m in 23.56sec, almost a second slower than her best.

If British disappointments so early in the season hardly came as a surprise, there was a real shock in the 5,000m when Kenenisa Bekele, the world champion, suffered a rare defeat by Kenya's Isaac Songok, who won in 12min 55.79sec. The Ethiopian has thus lost the chance of claiming a share in the half a million dollars on offer to athletes winning all six of the Golden League meetings ­ although he could still claim a share in the similar amount on offer to those winning five out of six.