Modest Meadows set to steal giant thunder

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The Independent Online

She wasn't quite travelling at 90mph around the tightly-banked 200m track in the National Indoor Arena, but like her one-time age-group rival Jenny Meadows, the 5ft 1in Pocket Rocket, sped her way into the record books yesterday. Not that it was much of a rivalry between the burgeoning star of the indoor track and field season and the new golden girl of British sport.

Indeed, after consigning Dame Kelly Holmes' seven-year-old British indoor 800m record to history in emphatic style in the Aviva Grand Prix meeting here, Meadows shook her head when asked if she could recall racing against Amy Williams in the days when the future Winter Olympic skeleton champion was a 400m runner. "No, I can't remember her," the Wigan athlete confessed. "I've just been told it was the Under-23 Championships in 2002. I was first and she was eighth."

The record books show that Meadows won the 400m at the AAA Under- 23 Championships in Bedford in 2002 in 54.13sec and that Amy Williams of the Wessex and Bath Athletics Club in fact finished seventh, and last, seven seconds behind. "I've beaten an Olympic champion!" Meadows exclaimed. "That sounds crazy. It was so inspiring watching Amy on television last night. It gives you goose bumps when someone from Britain produces that sort of performance. It's one of those moments where she will go into history. I'm hoping I can do a little too."

Meadows did more than a little yesterday. Since taking the bronze medal amidst the Caster Semenya furore in the 800m final at the World Championships in Berlin last August, there has been a new measure of assurance in the stride of the 28-year-old. It was in clear evidence from the start yesterday as she tracked the pacemaker, Danielle Christmas, then forged ahead of Yuliya Krevsun – the Ukrainian she beat in the sprint to the bronze in Berlin – in pursuit of the record Holmes set in Ghent in 2003. At the end she had 0.10sec to spare, crossing in 1:59.11. Krevsun was a distant runner-up in 2:00.36.

Clearly, there is more to come from Meadows, who is a promising prospect with the World Indoor Championships in Doha just three weeks away. "I knew I was in good shape from the trials last week," she reflected. "But then you look at the record – someone like Dame Kelly Holmes owns it and I've got no right to try to target that. Kelly didn't run a lot indoors but it's still a fantastic time.

"When she won double gold at the Athens Olympics I was still running 400m and only decided that winter to move to the 800m. I knew I didn't have the basic speed to be world-class at 400m and (when) you see a British athlete win at a global level it makes you think, 'Maybe I've got a chance.' She definitely was a huge role model for me."

It just so happened that the retired queen of British middle-distance running was on hand to offer her congratulations. "It was great to see Jenny break my record," Dame Kelly said. "She's been running really consistently this year. Let's face it, it was only a matter of time before she was going to break the record. She's looking really good.

"It's great to see her coming through. She's got that character and she's got that belief now. I think what she did at the World Championships has given her the confidence to believe that she can be as good, if not better, as the rest of the world. She's got that belief now."

Meadows has also got a $5,000 (£3,100) record bonus cheque, which will help her husband-cum-coach, Trevor Painter, work more closely with her. "Trevor is going part-time in his job from April to devote more time to our training group, so the cheque will definitely help. It's great that I can put the money back into getting better. When we go to training camps Trevor always has to take unpaid leave. We're going away again in April so that solves a lot of problems."

Meadows was not the only British athlete in the bonus money. Kate Dennison finished fourth in the pole vault with 4.60m, her 11th British record indoors or out in the space of 12 months. "That's my second of 2010," the Sale Harrier said. "Onwards and upwards."

Phillips Idowu also finished fourth in his event yesterday but the Belgrave Harrier was far from satisfied. "Very average," the world triple jump champion said of the 17.25m effort that put him behind the Swede Christian Olsson (17.32), and the Cubans Yoandri Betanzos (17.30) and David Girat (17.26). For the second time in four days, Idowu declined to commit himself to the defence of his world indoor crown in Doha. "We'll wait and see," he said.