Merry keen to chart progress

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The Independent Online

Katharine Merry is hoping to improve on her winning performance in Milan last week when she competes in the Athens Grand Prix today.

The Olympic 400 metres bronze medallist will face tougher opposition here with the world indoor champion, Sandie Richards of Jamaica, and the South African Heide Seyerling ­ winner over 200m in Milan ­ taking part.

The Birchfield runner left Milan with her confidence brimming. With the opposition a spent force before the half distance was reached, she slowed down but still won in a fast 50.44 seconds. Natural progression says she should go even quicker in Europe's first grand prix one fixture of the year.

"The run in Milan clearly showed how strong I am but I didn't expect to run so quickly," said Merry, who set her personal best of 49.72sec in the Olympic final. "I am sure I will build on the win. The field in Athens will be a much better one which obviously will help."

With the European indoor 60m champion Jason Gardener injuring himself in Seville and the world championship bronze medallist Dwain Chambers passing on the opportunity to take on Maurice Greene, Merry is the youngest Briton here.

Steve Backley, 32, and his colleague Mick Hill, 36, should not trouble Kostas Gatsioudis, sixth in the Olympic javelin final.

"Gatsioudis always gets great support when he competes in Greece and it does make things harder as the spectators are fanatical," Backley said.

The world 110m hurdles champion, Colin Jackson, lines up against the Olympic champion, Anier Garcia, and the world junior champion, Yuniel Hernandez.

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