Athletics: Radcliffe right on track for Olympics but Jones falls flat

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The Independent Online

Yesterday's events at the Norwich Union British Grand Prix provided a tale of the expected. Paula Radcliffe underlined her Olympic ambition by lapping every other runner in the 10,000 metres, despite windy conditions that frustrated her hope of breaking the half-hour; Marion Jones, embroiled in the Balco doping scandal, had little to say after finishing second in the long jump; and Russia's Yelena Isinbayeva broke the world pole vault record, just as she did here last year, raising the mark to 4.87m.

Radcliffe, whose first track race in two years saw her take the European Cup 5,000m title last week, finished in 30min 17.15sec in her first track appearance in Britain since winning the 2002 Commonwealth Games 5,000m title.

After five laps, as her Russian pacemaker stepped from the track, the 30-year-old Bedford runner was inside the schedule which saw her produce the second fastest time ever, 30:01.09, in winning the European title in Munich, but the blustery evening eventually caused her to slow.

She was still able to pass every other runner, however, including Portugal's former Olympic 10,000m champion Fernanda Ribeiro, whom she caught at the bell. All perfectly encouraging with exactly eight weeks to go until she is due to run the Olympic marathon.

"I didn't think the wind was too bad in the first half, but the problem was it turned around," she said. "I just kept going as long as I could. It's a shame when you want one fast 10km a year and the conditions are so bad. I'd like to think the wind cost me 18 seconds." Radcliffe, who officially earned the right to run the Olympic 10,000m by beating the A qualifying standard of 31min 45sec, said she planned one more race before she goes to Athens. "I'm not sure whether it will be on the track or the road," she said.

Jones, whose presence here while she is still officially helping the US Anti-Doping Agency with their investigations has roused some criticism, maintained after producing a long jump of 6.77m behind Tatyana Lebedeva's winning mark of 6.87m that she was still on course for the Olympics.

The normally media-conscious triple Olympic champion, who turned down every interview request except that of the BBC, said she was confident of qualifying at the US Olympic trials which begin on 19 July. On the subject of the ongoing doping scandal she maintained her stoic line.

"Off the track has been distracting, but not so much as you might think when I am actually competing," she said. "I've said my piece now. I've done everything possible to clear my name. I've taken a lie detector test, but if people want to continue this I will have to cope with it and keep working to make the US team." Jones appeared anxious before being announced to a crowd which was well short of the 12,000 maximum capacity. And although a warm response raised a relieved smile, she was generally keeping herself to herself.

Elsewhere in the long jump, the heptathlete Kelly Sotherton failed to achieve the Olympic A qualifying mark of 6.70m but finished a creditable fourth with 6.64m. She also ended the day with a bang on the knee after competing in the 100m hurdles. The Olympic champion Denise Lewis looked understandably rusty in her first long jump competition of the year, recording 6.14m.

Isinbayeva might have achieved three world records on the day, but no official measurement was taken either of the height she reached on the landing area as she bounced up and down in triumph, or of the number of autographs she signed for eager children in the back-straight stand.

After being presented with her world-record reward, a cheque for $50,000, she addressed the crowd with characteristic enthusiasm. "I will be back to do five metres!" she said. It was her fourth world record either indoors or outdoors - although there is now no official differentiation between the two - and a centimetre more than she did to win the world indoor title in March.

There were encouraging pre-Olympic performances for a number of Britons. Chris Lambert beat last week's European Cup winner Christian Malcolm over 200m, recording a season's best of 20.57sec, 0.07sec ahead of the Welshman.

Chris Rawlinson, still coming to terms with a new stride pattern, appeared to have put his technique together well as he came home to win the 400m hurdles in a season's best of 48.58sec. Donna Fraser, returning from the injuries that have wrecked the last three seasons, produced her best time since finishing fourth in the Olympic final, 51.11sec, fourth behind the world champion Ana Guevara, of Mexico. And Kelly Holmes won her 1,500m with ease in 4min 06.83sec.

One other Briton with a reason to be cheerful was BBC's Brendan Foster, who saw the world 10,000m champion Kenenisa Bekele challenge the 3,000m stadium record of 7min 35.10sec, then a world record, which Foster set in 1974. Foster believes the 22-year-old Ethiopian, who has already set world records at 5,000m and 10,000m this season, could dominate distance running for the next decade. But he will surely have felt a little pang of pleasure at seeing Bekele finish six seconds off his mark, with 7.41.31.