Modahl on the mark

An Olympic appearance for Diane Modahl, cleared of doping charges in March after a 20-months absence from the sport, is now a probability rather than a possibility following her 800 metres qualifying time.

Modahl, who had to wait nearly a year before the International Amateur Athletic Federation accepted her successful domestic appeal against a four-year ban for testosterone abuse, recorded 2min 00.95sec in finishing sixth at the St Denis Grand Prix on Monday night.

That was 0.05sec inside the required mark for Olympic preparation - a huge achievement for an athlete who only returned on 4 May, when she ran 2min 6.36sec in a league match.

She will thus go forward to the Olympic trials nine days from now as one of only two British women with the qualifying mark, the other being the world bronze medallist Kelly Holmes. A place in the first two will win her automatic selection for Atlanta, otherwise she would have a strong claim to the third discretionary selection.

"This has taken a lot of the pressure off,'' Modahl's husband and coach, Vicente, said yesterday. "She can now be much more relaxed about the trials without having to worry about the clock. She has been under so much pressure and to come through it like this is tremendous.''

Linford Christie has broken 10 seconds for the first time this season, but the event was the press conference rather than the 100m. Britain's Olympic champion, who has consistently avoided the question of whether he will defend his 100m title in Atlanta, competes at both 100 and 200m in the Rome Grand Prix tonight. But at a press conference yesterday, he left the podium after the following message: "I ain't saying nothing. I'm answering no questions. All I'm saying is I'm in good shape. I came here to keep very quiet. Thank you.''

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