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."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree were established in 1986....

Recruitment Genius: SAGE Bookkeeper & PA to Directors

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Executive

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map