Meadows sets her sights on new British record

British runner targets Kelly Holmes' 800m indoor marker in Birmingham today
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The Independent Online

It is true to say that there has been nothing quite like Dame Kelly Holmes in the long, rich history of women's track and field on these shores.

There has been no other double Olympic gold medal-winning female British athlete. Still, there could possibly be one less honour left in Dame Kelly's possession by the time the clock-chasing is finished on the blue 200-metre track at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham this afternoon.

For Jenny Meadows, the No 1 priority in the women's 800m – the penultimate race on the programme in the Aviva Grand Prix – will be the psychological boost of a victory against world-class opposition ahead of the World Indoor Championships, which take place in the Aspire Dome in Doha from March 12 to 14. Priority No 2, though, is the British indoor record set by Holmes on the Belgian boards of Ghent on 9 February, 2003: 1 min 59.21sec.

"First and foremost I want to win the event," Meadows said yesterday upon her arrival in England's Second City for the premier meeting of the British indoor season.

"A lot of people are saying to me, 'Maybe you can get Kelly Holmes' British record' and I have got one eye on that, but the priority is definitely the win. I love this track at Birmingham. It's a really, really quick track and there's going to be a lot of support for me. But I just want to make sure I'm a contender for Doha."

Not many folk had Meadows down as a contender for Berlin last summer but the 5ft 1in Wiganer lived up to her sobriquet of "the Pocket Rocket" blasting to a bronze medal in the outdoor World Championship final. It was a significant breakthrough that passed without due recognition in the midst of the Caster Semenya affair that has yet to reach a conclusion, six months on.

"I can't believe it has not been resolved," Meadows said of the uncertainty still surrounding the South African world champion following gender verification tests.

What is certain in Meadows' case is that she has stepped up a notch in terms of her assurance on the track since her bronze medal run behind Semenya and Kenya's Janeth Jepkosgei in Berlin. In the Birmingham Grand Prix last year she was beaten by one of her British rivals, Marilyn Okoro, but clocked an indoor personal best – 1: 59.52 – as runner-up. Okoro missed Holmes' British record by a tantalising 0.06sec and 12 months on the new, improved Pocket Rocket looks equipped to threaten it, especially with Yuliya Krevsun in the field to push her. She was the Ukrainian Meadows beat in the sprint for bronze in Berlin.

"I think I proved a point to myself last year by getting my bronze medal, and I've taken that with me through the winter into the indoor season," Meadows said, of her elevated stature. "When I'm standing on the start line now, they announce me as 'world bronze medallist' and I kind of think, 'Gosh, I've got to live up that; I've got to perform like that'. It's definitely been a confidence-building thing."

There were two British records in the Birmingham Grand Prix last year – courtesy of Kate Dennison, who will be back in action in the pole vault in the National Indoor Arena today, and Mo Farah, who withdrew from the field for the 3,000m yesterday.

Kenenisa Bekele had been planning an attack on Daniel Komen's 3,000m indoor world record but the Ethiopian has also scratched from the event. Still, two of Bekele's compatriots will have their sights on global marks today: Gelete Burka in the mile and Tirunesh Dibaba in the two miles.

Going the extra mile: Indoor quest for world-record glory

*One Mile

The women's indoor mile record has stood for 20 years to Doina Melinte, the 1984 Olympic 800m champion from Romania. Her time, 4min 17.14sec, is the target in Birmingham today for Gelete Burka, the world indoor 1500m champion from Ethiopia.

*Two Miles

Tirunesh Dibaba, the Ethiopian who won the Olympic 5,000m and 10,000m titles in Beijing in 2008, and Vivian Cheruiyot, the Kenyan world 5,000m champion, both plan to attack Meseret Defar's world best time for two miles: 9min 09.26sec.