Holmes alone in top 20

Athletics

NORMAN FOX

reports from Monte Carlo

While Moses Kiptanui, the best of Kenya's seemingly infinite fund of distance runners, and Maria Mutola, of Mozambique, predictably took pounds 180,000 each for becoming the season's overall champions after the IAAF/Mobil Grand Prix final here on Saturday, British athletics has to assess the cost of accepting that it has only one competitor looking towards next summer's Olympic Games with any obvious hope of winning a gold medal.

Admittedly injuries have played a part this season, but the final grand prix standings saw only one British athlete in the top 20 for either men or women.

That was the courageous Kelly Holmes, whose second place to the formidable overall women's winner, Mutola, in the 800 metres here in a British record time of 1 min 56.21 sec suggested that come next summer's Olympics she should take a place on the podium.

Linford Christie continues to send out confusing messages about his Olympic intentions. It seems that he wants everyone to conclude that he has no intention of competing in Atlanta, but his intentions today can by tomorrow turn to something different.

However, Christie remains one of the sport's biggest attractions, which is why the international federation added a 100 metres race to Saturday's programme and inadvertently, perhaps, revealed the deposed world champion's failing ability to continue being the boss of the sprint scene.

Not that fifth place here was devastating, however. After all, the first six finished with only an arm's length between them behind the unexpected winner, Damien Marsh, of Australia, but Christie's vulnerability is becoming familiar.

Add that to the doubts about Sally Gunnell and Colin Jackson and the inability of Steve Backley to provide a consistent challenge to Jan Zelezny in the javelin, and Holmes may begin to think that, from the British standpoint, Olympic year is going to be all about her and Jonathan Edwards.

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