Athletics: Roar of acclaim propels Holmes to victory

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The Independent Online

Kelly Holmes provided a capacity crowd at the National Indoor Arena with the required victory here last night in the penultimate event of a Norwich Union Grand Prix which produced yet another world record from Russia's prodigious pole vaulter, Yelena Isinbayeva.

Kelly Holmes provided a capacity crowd at the National Indoor Arena with the required victory here last night in the penultimate event of a Norwich Union Grand Prix which produced yet another world record from Russia's prodigious pole vaulter, Yelena Isinbayeva.

The double Olympic champion, who has been on midweek duty to promote London's bid for the 2012 Games during the visit of the International Olympic Committee's evaluation commission, won the 1,000 metres without undue pressure in two minutes 35.39 seconds.

Holmes had provoked a huge roar of acclaim when she made an appearance earlier in the evening at the National Indoor Arena to the appropriate musical accompaniment of "There Is Nothing Like A Dame" before receiving her umpteenth award since Athens ­ this time from the Birmingham City Council.

At which point it was announced that she would undertake an autograph-signing session after the evening's action. It seemed likely to be her most gruelling challenge of the night.

There appear to be three requirements for a women's world pole vault record at the moment ­ a pole, a bar and Isinbayeva. The Olympic champion secured her 10th world mark of the past year, and 11th overall, with an effort of 4.88m, adding a centimetre to the world indoor record she had set just six days earlier in Donetsk.

On that occasion her reward was a car ­ albeit, a Skoda rather than a Mercedes. Here, after one marginal failure where she brushed the bar off on the way down, she added another $30,000 (£16,000) cheque to her collection, the fifth such prize she has received on British soil. "I hope to go higher this season," said Isinbayeva, somewhat redundantly, before setting off on a leggy lap of honour. With her outdoor mark standing at 4.92m, the first 5m-vault can surely not be far away.

For a man who insisted a week ago that indoor running was not for him ­ "I'm never going to be good indoors. I'm probably too tall. Maybe in the future I should leave it alone" ­ Chris Lambert did pretty well here. His winning 200m time of 20.88sec was a personal best which leaves him just one place outside the world's top 10 so far this season, and in good shape to earn material reward in next month's European Indoor Championships in Madrid, for which the British team will be announced on Monday.

Lambert's opinion had clearly been revised in the wake of his latest performance. "That was great," he said. "My coach told me if I ran a pb here today it would set me up nicely for Madrid." Sarah Claxton, who followed up her British record of 7.96sec in the 60m hurdles last week with another impressive victory here in 7.98 also looks likely to enjoy her trip to Spain.

The two miles race, set up as an opportunity for Ethiopia's Olympic 10,000m champion Kenenisa Bekele to challenge the world record, ended in an upset as he was beaten by his team-mate Markos Geneti, who finished over a second clear in 8.14.28, almost 10 seconds outside the 2003 world record set here by that other illustrious Ethiopian, Haile Gebrselassie.

"He was just too strong for me and took me a little bit by surprise on the last lap," said Bekele, whose fiancée died of a heart attack while running with him early in January. "After all that's happened recently it is good to be racing with this company."

An indoor personal best of 6.52m put Jade Johnson on the brink of victory in the long jump ­ until the very last jump, in fact, when the Olympic heptathlon champion Carolina Kluft provided further evidence of her indefatigable credentials. The Swede makes a habit of leaving her best to last ­ she rescued herself en route to the 2003 world heptathlon title by producing a winning long jump at her final attempt as she faced an effective exit after failing to make a mark with her previous two efforts.

This time the 22-year-old cleared 6.66m to finish ahead of a field that also included the Briton who took the bronze behind her in Athens, Kelly Sotherton, fifth with 6.34. "I feel quite tired, as I've been very busy with competitions recently so I knew there was only one good jump in me today," Kluft said. "Now my competitions are over and I can concentrate on the championships."

Johnson was downbeat about an effort which had added two centimetres to the personal best she had established at last weekend's European trials. "I should have jumped a lot better, really," she said, but added that she was now jumping without pain after the back muscle injury which troubled her last month. "I have no excuse not to perform in Madrid," she said.

The European and Commonwealth silver medallist had the final word, nevertheless, having managed to find enough space on the back of her very brief briefs to carry the message: "Back the Olympic Bid". It was the sub-text of the evening.

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