Holmes too hot for Quirot

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Kelly Holmes' prospects of winning at this summer's World Championships brightened still further last night as she outsprinted Cuba's world champion, Ana Quirot, to win the 800 metres in the Stockholm Grand Prix.

Holmes, who contemplated retirement after injury ruined her chances of a medal at last summer's Olympics, finished in 1min 57.15sec, narrowly outside her British record of 1:56.21, but enough to put her at the top of the world rankings.

The 27-year-old Army sergeant, who will be leaving the Forces later this year to concentrate on her running, also leads the 1500m rankings after her national record in the British grand prix last Sunday week.

She is concentrating this year upon the 1500m, but has not ruled out the possibility of doubling up in Athens. Whatever course she takes, this season looks like providing her with the rewards denied her last year, when a stress fracture on the eve of the Games ruined her chances. Last night's rewards were topped off by a $10,000 (pounds 6,000) diamond for setting a new stadium record.

Ato Boldon produced a sprint double which bodes ill for his rivals in Athens, winning the 100m in 9.95 - despite throwing his arms up into the air two metres from the line - and the 200m in 19.82, the fastest time in the world this year. Both times he finished ahead of his training partner Maurice Greene, the winner of the US trials 100m.

Hicham El Guerrouj of Morocco, who missed the world mile record by half a second in Oslo on Friday night when he ran 3:44.90, decided in his disappointment to make an attempt on Noureddine Morceli's world 1500m record of 3:27.37, but it proved too much, too soon afterwards. The 22-year-old slowed in the final straight and had to settle for the fastest time in the world this year, 3:29.31.

The double Olympic champion Michael Johnson is unlikely to receive a wild card to compete in the World Championships after all. The International Amateur Athletic Federation president, Primo Nebiolo, had proposed giving the American a wild card when he failed to qualify for the United States team after injury forced him to miss the US trials last month.

USA Track and Field, who have refused to change their strict qualification rules, immediately welcomed the idea of a special invitation. But there is growing opposition within the IAAF, the sport's governing body, to the creation of a wild-card system.

"There is a powerful lobby opposed to the wild-card scheme and it looks almost certain that no agreement will be reached before the World Championships," an IAAF source said yesterday. "Time is running out and if a wild-card ruling comes into effect, it will almost certainly be for 1999, not 1997."

Roger Black will learn today whether he has a realistic chance of competing in Athens. Britain's 31-year-old team captain-elect will receive the result of a blood test which will show whether the virus currently undermining his form is the same one which wiped out his 1993 season.

Black said yesterday he was feeling "much better" after cancelling his schedule of events after a disappointing performance in the British Grand Prix last Sunday week, but he does not think he has any chance of making the British trials which start in Birmingham on Friday.