Ottey rekindles her Olympic ambition

Three weeks ago Merlene Ottey didn't expect to be featuring in the 100m at the Olympic Games in Sydney. Unless one of her compatriots gets injured, she won't be, though her failure to qualify for the Jamaican team in the short sprint event has not curtailed her Olympic ambitions. Far from it.

Three weeks ago Merlene Ottey didn't expect to be featuring in the 100m at the Olympic Games in Sydney. Unless one of her compatriots gets injured, she won't be, though her failure to qualify for the Jamaican team in the short sprint event has not curtailed her Olympic ambitions. Far from it.

Indeed, fourth place in the 100m final at the Jamaican trials in Kingston has secured the 40-year-old veteran an appearance in what will be her sixth Olympic Games with a place in her national 4 x 100m relay team for Sydney. She also still has the opportunity to qualify for what has been her stronger event, the 200m, though it was clear in the 100m final that the time Ottey lost before the sudden lifting of her suspension has taken its toll on her sharpness.

The fastest qualifier from Thursday's heats with 11.09sec, the grand dame of world sprinting could manage only 11.27sec in a close-run race. Only 0.01sec separated the three medallists, Peta-Gaye Dowdie prevailing in 11.19sec ahead of Beverly McDonald and Tanya Lawrence. "I wasn't in the best shape," Ottey confessed. "It was good for Jamaica to see me one more time, though."

It was only on 7 July that Ottey was cleared to return to competition, when the International Amateur Athletic Federation made the surprise announcement that they did not have sufficient evidence of her guilt following her positive test for the anabolic steroid nandrolone in Lucerne last July.

In less sombre mood yesterday was Tegla Loroupe, the marathon world record holder and winner of this year's London Marathon. After cruising to a 10,000m victory in the Kenyan trials in Nairobi, clocking 32min 13.00sec, she announced her intention of tackling a daunting 10,000m-marathon double in Sydney. The 10,000m heats are only three days after the marathon but Loroupe said: "I'm definitely going for both events."

Her announcement will be noted with interest by Paula Radcliffe. The Briton took the 10,000m silver medal ahead of Loroupe at the world championships in Seville last August and is starting to focus belatedly on her competitive build-up to the 10,000m in Sydney following a series of setbacks.

Radcliffe was hit by a virus after her two top-five placings in the world cross-country championships in March and has since undergone surgery to repair a damaged knee and a torn calf muscle. On Wednesday she tests her fitness against Britain's European Cup 1500m winner Helen Pattinson in the metric mile at the AdidasCuitat meeting in Barcelona. And on Saturday week, she has a 5,000m date with Sonia O'Sullivan at Crystal Palace in the British Grand Prix.

"I wanted to have some sort of competitive outing over 1500m or 3,000m before the Crystal Palace race," Radcliffe said. "I chose Barcelona because it was a good race last year and it isn't too far from my training base in Font Romeu.''

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