Athletics: Rawlinson pays price for weekend work

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The Independent Online

Chris Rawlinson, winner of the European Cup 400 metres hurdles final on Saturday, was beaten into third place in last night's Tsiklitiria Super Grand Prix here.

It was not a serious setback for the Commonwealth champion, who over the final two hurdles succumbed to the strength of the world champion Felix Sanchez. Jamaican Ian Weakley, who finished third at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester last year, also caught him on the line.

"He took charge coming off the eighth," said Rawlinson, whose time of 48.55 seconds was half a second slower than Sanchez. Sanchez's time, 0.48sec quicker than that of fast-finishing Weakley, was also the quickest mark for the distance in the world this year.

The man from the Dominican Republic started on the inside of Rawlinson and had caught him at the third hurdle. The Yorkshireman was back level three obstacles later, but Sanchez found something extra.

Rawlinson said: "I think it was a case of the fresher man winning. The weekend, when I ran twice in horrific heat, took an awful lot out of me.

"Then the 11 hours of travelling to get here didn't help. Overall I'm happy things are going in the right direction."

Meanwhile, Kelly Holmes has admitted that she came close to quitting athletics at the end of last season, despite the fact that she had regained the Commonwealth 1500 metres title she first won in 1994. "I'd lost my motivation," she said yesterday as she looked forward to opening her new season in Glasgow on Sunday. "I'd had lots of ups and downs with injuries. It's hard year after year. I needed something to keep me going."

Happily for British athletics, the 33-year-old from Kent found that something in the form of one of her great rivals, Mozambique's world and Olympic 800m champion Maria Mutola, with whom she has spent the winter training in South Africa. "She is fast and strong and I have the endurance," Holmes said. "We complement each other. Training can be very lonely as an athlete, especially as a female. She made the sessions more bearable."

While Mutola is due to defend her world 800m title this summer, Holmes - who made an extraordinary return from injury to take the Olympic 800m bronze medal in 2000 - is now committed to the 1500m in Paris

"I ran 4min 2sec for 1,500m indoors this winter. Put that into outdoor context and it's pretty reassuring," she said.