Modahl back in the groove

Mike Rowbottom sees a former champion home in on victory and a European target

"Motivation in the Workplace" was the topic on Diane Modahl's mind yesterday - the subject of a dissertation she was completing as part of her Media Studies degree at Manchester University.

The former Commonwealth 800 metres champion's motivation in her own workplace was greatly enhanced by Saturday's performance in the UK Women's League match at Edinburgh, where she marked her first track appearance in 21 months with victories in the 800m and 400 metres relay.

Her winning 800m time of 2min 06.37sec was not significant. Her main aim, just five weeks after the International Amateur Athletic Federation had cleared her of the drug-taking allegations which had put her career on hold for nearly two years, was to regain the feeling of track racing.

As such, the event took on a deeper emotional significance, and she was briefly tearful afterwards before declaring: "This was a very special moment for me... the time was not important. It was all about getting back under starter's orders."

Although she has a way to go before she reaches the Olympic qualifying standard of 2.01.30, her husband and coach, Vicente, was confident yesterday that that target was eminently gettable.

"With a stronger field yesterday, I wouldn't have been surprised if she had done 2.02," he said. "We wanted her to stay in the group regardless for 500 metres just to get used to having other athletes around her. She ran the last 300 metres in 44 seconds, even though she eased off at the end, which was very encouraging."

Her 400 metres leg of 54.1sec in Sale Harriers' relay victory also allayed fears about the lower back problem which had hindered her recent training in Albuquerque. "Sometimes she hasn't been able to walk after training, but she felt no ill effects this morning," her coach said.

His wife will run low key meetings in Manchester and Blackburn before doing a 600 metres at the Welsh Games on 25 May and then competing in Hengelo and Bratislava. "Hopefully she will be picked for the European Cup in June."

If Modahl's season does go according to plan, it will be due in part to the work of an Altrincham osteopath, Alexandra McCann, who has eased her back problem. "She has really saved Diane's season," Vicente said.

The British Athletic Federation's spokesman, Tony Ward, described Modahl's performance as "very encouraging". He added: "It is very good news for the event because apart from Kelly Holmes the 800 metres has really become retarded in the last 18 months."

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