Athletics: Wami backs Radcliffe to return 'better than before'

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The former world 10,000 metres champion Gete Wami believes Paula Radcliffe will benefit from her long lay-off following the foot injury she sustained at the beginning of the year.

Wami has fought many battles with Radcliffe, including victory over her in their unforgettable World Championships 10,000m battle in Seville seven years ago. The pair's showdown in the blistering Spanish heat is still remembered as the best women's 25-lap confrontation of all time.

The 31-year-old Ethiopian, who is the leading attraction at the Great Women's Run in Sunderland tomorrow, said: "I think she will be an even better runner than she was before when returning from injury.

"I am sure Paula - although I hear she is back training - will have benefited from not having raced since the beginning of the year She has had a good period of rest and, from my experience, even a few weeks will have worked in her favour."

Radcliffe is still targeting the defence of her European 10,000m title in Gothenburg in August. Wami, who will face tough international and domestic opposition on Wearside, is eager to produce another performance at the inaugural Great Women's Run over the same distance.

She faces fellow Ethiopian Elfenesh Alemu, Irish record-holder over the distance Sonia O'Sullivan, the Hungarian record-holder Beata Rakonczai, England's Liz Yelling and Tracey Morris of Wales.

The American Marion Jones will run the 100 metres in Rome's Golden Gala track meeting next month, returning after a three-year absence. Organisers also said yesterday that they have signed on Asafa Powell for the men's 100m but said it was unlikely the Jamaican would be facing his arch rival and joint world record holder, Justin Gatlin at the event.

The meeting director, Luigi D'Onofrio, said that Jones "is once again a competitive athlete and we thought it right to invite her to the meeting".

The 30-year-old Jones won a record five Olympic track medals - three of them gold - at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, but she has been dogged by doping smears in recent years, allegations she vehemently denies.

Although Jones was hampered by injuries last season, she has nevertheless twice run 11.06sec in the 100m this season, the fourth-fastest time in the world this year.