OLYMPIC GAMES: No reward for Holmes' bravery

Norman Fox on the British also-ran who deserved more than a badge of courage
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The Independent Online
The British Olympic camp here yesterday was full of praise and admiration for someone who finished next to last in her final. Kelly Holmes ran, and for a while led, the women's 1500 metres knowing that at any moment a bone above her ankle could snap.

She bravely set the pace early on but mainly that was to avoid any accidents. The team doctor, Malcolm Brown, said: "She's one of the bravest girls in the world to run six races with a stress fracture. She was told the risk which was that if she had an injury during the final the bone could break, but we left the decision to her. She had some local anaesthetic before the race and needed painkillers afterwards."

Roger Black, Britain's 400m silver medal winner, said: "Believe me that girl has gone through a lot of pain every time she's run."

Holmes crossed the line almost at a walking pace after understandably losing touch with the eventual winner, Svetlana Masterkova of Russia, who thus achieved the 1500 and 800 double. As Holmes left the stadium she was in tears and walking on crutches. Brown said no operation was possible for the injury but that after rest she should be able to start running again in six to eight weeks. In other words, what had been a genuine chance of winning a medal here has gone and her season is over.

Masterkova won with a searing last lap of just over a minute but she was fortunate that three of the favourites were missing, Sonia O'Sullivan and Maria Mutola having withdrawn and the defending champion, Hassiba Boulmerka, failing to qualify. She was gracious enough to say later: "I realise that it was not quite the final that should have been for an Olympic Games."

Romania's Gabriela Szabo, only 20, could not believe she won the silver medal. She had failed to qualify for the final of her stronger event, the 5,000m.

A moment of misfortune for potentially his most dangerous rival brought the three-times world champion and world record holder, Noureddine Morceli, the 1500m gold, and he knew it. When Hicham El Guerrouj trod on Morceli's heel in mid-race, the Algerian glanced back, saw the Moroccan fall and took off. He had been avoiding racing against the highly promising 20- year-old for most of the summer.

In the moment of chaos all of the other likely medal winners had to take avoiding action, allowing Morceli to ease away despite considerable pain from his spiked heel. Fermin Cacho, of Spain, leapt surprisingly elegantly and cleared El Guerrouj but there was no chance of catching Morceli, who won in 3min 35.78sec,slower than his preliminary round race.

For Morceli the victory brought compensation for finishing only seventh in Barcelona four years before. "I can forget that now," he said. "It was an easier race than I expected. I was a little lucky."

The injury to his Achilles tendon is not serious and he should be ready to race in Zurich on 14 August, as will Michael Johnson, whose tendon strain is also not considered serious.