Athletics: Merry and Holmes target return to action

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The Independent Online

Katharine Merry confirmed yesterday that she will run her first international 400 metres individual race in two years when she competes at Gateshead on Sunday.

Merry returned to international action on 21 June when she ran for the British 400m relay team at the European Cup in Florence, but she pulled out of a scheduled individual race in Glasgow a week later in order to rest an injury to her foot.

Her race at the Norwich Union Super League represents the Olympic bronze medallist's biggest test since 2001, when she was forced to pull out of the World Championships with an Achilles tendon injury which required an operation that kept her out for the whole of the following season.

Merry ran a 400m at a low- key meeting in Cork City last Sunday, finishing second in a time of 52.42sec and now feels ready to step up to a level of competition she has not experienced as an individual since the meeting at Crystal Palace two years ago.

Merry will be joined at Gateshead by another of Britain's Olympic bronze medallists, Kelly Holmes, who also pulled out of the Glasgow meeting in order to recover fully from injury, in her case to her calf.

Holmes, who has been training in South Africa with the world and Olympic 800m champion Maria Mutola, will run as a precaution over a longer distance than usual, 3,000m, rather than the 800m which will involve both her training partner and the world indoor record holder Jolanda Ceplak of Slovakia.

"After struggling with injury over the last couple of weeks I haven't got the speed in my legs to run an 800m as competitive as this," Holmes said. "Thankfully UK Athletics have given me the chance to do a 3,000m this weekend, which suits me far better."

Mutola and Ceplak met in last Friday's Golden League meeting in Paris, with the former winning. "I only got word today that I was going to do Gateshead, but it's great news," Mutola said. "I always love running in Britain, and a race against such a strong field is just the sort of challenge I need right now."

* Tim Montgomery and Marion Jones have appointed Dan Pfaff as their new coach. Jones, who gave birth to the couple's first child on 28 June, will begin work with Pfaff in September but Montgomery will start immediately. Pfaff has previously coached Donovan Bailey, who won the 100m gold medal in the 1996 Olympics.

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