Modahl the ghost buster

The run of bad luck seems over for Britain's 800m runner.

DIANE MODAHL had to go, though she seemed willing to talk all night. She was wanted for dope testing, another little ordeal in a week of personal catharsis. Whether the demons were banished forever last night in Kuala Lumpur, only Modahl and her faithful husband-coach Vicente know. But a bronze medal was at least something to put on the credit side of the desperately lopsided inventory of her recent life.

"This is the end of a chapter," she said after finishing third in the 800 metres behind Maria Mutola and Argentina Paulino, both of Mozambique, a country only welcomed into the Commonwealth three years ago. "It almost ended in a fairytale, but not quite." That Mozambique, a country of minimal athletic achievement, should at present boast two of the best 800m runners in the world seemed to epitomise Modahl's wretched run of luck. But she has known worse, a lot worse.

At the age of 32, Modahl ran the second quickest race of her career, but only for a second as she came off the final bend on the shoulders of the two favourites did she threaten to regain the title she won in 1990. "I missed a year of really hard competitive racing, the sort that Mutola has had," she explained. "That's what I lost." Nor did it help that her first choice pair of spikes had been stolen from her room the night before the semi-final.

For Modahl, the colour of the metal was insignificant. Rarely has so much been invested in a bronze. For the past four years, since she was forced to slip away from the Commonwealth Games branded a cheat, Modahl's life has been consumed by the fight to clear her name. A four-year ban imposed by the British Athletics Federation for a positive test at a meeting in Portugal was overturned by the International Amateur Athletic Federation on appeal within six months; a multi-million pound claim for compensation against the BAF is still outstanding.

Somewhere in all the mess, Modahl's long-standing love affair with running turned sour. Her spikes hung in the hall, her medals stayed on the wall and for long periods her emotions hovered on the edge of sanity. Vicente recalls the day he found his wife brandishing a two-foot long Norwegian hunting knife. Only the birth of a daughter, Imani (the name is Swahili for "hope"), brought a flicker of light to the underworld.

Reflecting on the lows has been a natural process in Kuala Lumpur, as each pinprick has unleashed a flood of memories. "Everyone in the village was nodding and winking. Just people saying 'good luck, we're right behind you', things like that have brought it all back," she said. Sitting in contemplation in the final moments before the race, four years to the day after her expulsion, Modahl could not have helped but rewind the video. Back to the day she put her own voice on the home answerphone once more after 18 months of silence or the wet and windy Valentine's Day in the unlikely setting of the Baseball Ground in Derby, when she began competing again and won a county cross-country race. The day they had to sell their house to pay the lawyers' bills.

"I tried to put all those thoughts to the back of my mind, but during the warm-up they all just kept coming back, right back to the day they told me I couldn't defend my title. I mean, I remember the first time I competed again for Sale Harriers at a meeting in Edinburgh. I didn't want to be there," she said.

But it was a matter of unfinished business as she returned to the podium at these Games. The broad smile and the waves to each corner of the Bukit Jalil stadium showed the significance of that step up for the medal ceremony. "I wanted to win more than any other girl in the race, that was what made me so confident," she said.

Despite the understandable tangle of thoughts, Modahl's racing brain remained sharp enough. Though outrun for the first lap as Mutola set a blistering pace at the front, Modahl patiently found her rhythm and moved up down the back straight, cutting down those who had been drawn into matching strides. Only in the final 60 metres did the lack of recent work begin to tell and, by then, the Mozambique pair were enjoying their own private duel to the line. It was still Modahl's fastest time for nearly six years, a measurement of rehabilitation and a suitable cause for celebration. "It's our sixth wedding anniversary today and we're going to go out partying," Modahl said. "There's been no reason to celebrate recently."

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Harry Redknapp. Mark Hughes and Ryan Shawcross
footballNews and updates as Queens Park Rangers host the Potters
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
New Articles
i100... with this review
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
New Articles
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cover Supervisor

£75 - £90 per day + negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Are you a cover supe...

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam