Lewis fails to convince in the jumps

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The Independent Online

The prospects of the Olympic heptathlon champion, Denise Lewis, adding the world title to her collection next month took a significant dip in Birmingham yesterday as she failed to produce a convincing performance where she most needed it – the high jump.

Before Lewis took part in four of her seven disciplines this weekend, her coach, Charles van Commonnee, emphasised the importance of the event which almost cost her the Olympic gold medal in Sydney.

"In most events she will be fine... but the jumps are the big worry," Van Commonnee said. The high jump remains a big worry after Lewis's failure to clear more than 1.68 metres – and that after scraping over at her third attempt – in an event where she has a personal best of 1.87m.

Lewis admits that, following the publicity that followed her Olympic win, and a knee operation she underwent before Christmas, she has had to compact "a year's work into a few months."

Her other performances here – 24.63sec in the 200m, 45.89m in the javelin, and 13.42sec to take fourth place in the 100m hurdles final – were satisfactory, if not sensational. But she knows she has urgent work to do to meet the challenge of the defending champion, Eunice Barber, and Russia's Olympic silver medallist Yelena Prokhorova.

Lewis was one of a group of leading British women for whom these trials provided a valuable marker. Given the erratic nature of Kelly Holmes's athletic career, it was fitting that she should have taken part in the 800 metres final here on the toss of a coin just two minutes before the deadline for entries fell.

It was also characteristic of the Olympic bronze medallist, whose consequent victory confirmed her status as a contender for next month's World Championships, that she ignored the way the coin landed.

What caused Holmes's last-minute jitters was lingering doubt over her fitness following a preparation that has been all but ruined by illness – she has suffered from the debilitating Epstein Barr viral syndrome, and latterly Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which has restricted her preparation over the last month to carefully monitored runs of 500 metres or less.

"Every year there seems to be something wrong with me," she said after finishing a clear winner in 2min 02.61sec. "I'm only a human being, and it did get me down. If it hadn't been for my coach, Dave Arnold, I would probably have called it a day for this season."

Now, however, Holmes – who recorded a time of 2:00.54 in Madrid on July 7 – can concentrate on making up lost ground.

This weekend's trials proved to be too much of a challenge for another of Britain's Olympic medallists, Katharine Merry, who is hoping her chest infection will clear in time for the final team selection next Monday.

But they proved fruitful for the world indoor triple jump record holder, Ashia Hansen. Her victory on Saturday in what was her first event since last September's Olympic final reassured her that she can challenge for a medal in Edmonton next month. Jumping free of pain following her foot operation in March, and with the traumatic court case involving her former boyfriend Chris Cotter now behind her, she is looking to the future with cautious optimism.

Her final jump of 14.09m satisfied her that she can challenge the likes of Russia's Tatyana Lebedeva, who leads this year's world standings with 14.91m. "I'm over my injury, I've got no worries, nothing at the back of my mind," she said. "I want to show the other girls that I'm not done for. I'm still around."

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