Merry takes a step up in class

Katharine merry, the winner of last week's Helsinki Grand Prix, is under no illusions that her second 400 metres race of the season in Nuremberg tomorrow will provide a much stiffer test in her Olympic Games build-up.

Katharine merry, the winner of last week's Helsinki Grand Prix, is under no illusions that her second 400 metres race of the season in Nuremberg tomorrow will provide a much stiffer test in her Olympic Games build-up.

The world championship silver medallist, Anja Rucker, heads a strong German contingent, including the 1998 European champion Grit Breuer, while Russia provides the 1999 European Cup-winner Svetlana Goncharenko and Natalya Nazarova, the runner-up in this year's European Indoors.

But with Sydney looming, 25-year-old Merry - who ran a fast 50.72 seconds in Helsinki - knows she will need several more races to iron out minor problems. In Helsinki she allowed the leaders to open a five- metre lead before the half-way point. That could be a mistake in the highly-charged atmosphere of a major race.

"I'll be trying to back up last week's race by getting in another solid run close to 50 seconds, but more importantly run tactically a bit better," she said. "I didn't realise how big the gap was until watching it on the replay afterwards. During the race it was only in the last 100 I knew how large it was - but I knew I could get it back."

Merry's Olympic preparation is being meticulously overseen by her coach Linford Christie, and both are confident that the Nuremberg race will further confirm her three-month training spell in Australia has built up her strength.

"Strength is very important, very much so and after my winter's training I know there is plenty there," she said.

The world championship 100m bronze medallist, Dwain Chambers, will also represent Christie's stable when he steps on to the European circuit for the first time this season this weekend - and there is an impressive field to take him on.

Chambers - along with Darren Campbell, Christian Malcolm and Julian Golding - take on the reigning Olympic title-holder Donovan Bailey and his fellow Canadian Bruny Surin, who won the silver medal in Seville last summer.

Jamie Baulch, who has spent the last week competing in the Baltic States, can stake a claim for the 400m place in next month's British European Cup side with a victory.

* Dieter Baumann, the former 5,000m Olympic champion who claimed traces of nandrolone found in his drug sample came about because his toothpaste was doped, was yesterday cleared to run again by the German Athletics Federation.

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