Olympics 1992 Friday 31 July: In trim: Yvonne Murray - 3000 metres: Round 1 6.50pm

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Just as she did last year, Yvonne Murray has shown some fine form this summer. She travels to Barcelona, as she did to Tokyo, with the world's fastest time of the year to her credit.

It is not an omen to the liking of her coach, Tommy Boyle. 'Fast times give something for the others to concentrate on,' he says. It is concentration that is the keynote. In her two biggest races of last year, it proved lacking.

A reckless start left her drained for the last lap in the European Cup, when the pack brushed past. In the world championships she held her fire for the last lap and a half, but fizzled out like a damp squib when she could not shake off the group.

Boyle is no less critical in retrospect. 'She didn't put her season together at all. You only find out when it is really tough. Her bubble burst. If she had been mentally in control she could have probably got third.'

Murray spent three months earlier this year training in South Africa. Boyle believes that this will prove more valuable as mental conditioning than physical. 'Being there so long on your own is not easy for a girl, but she has come back a different person. She's a lot more settled, not torn between issues in her life. Athletics is No 1 now, which was not true last year.'

Yvonne Murray may not prove to be No 1 in Barcelona, but she should contest a medal. 'Yvonne's advantage is that she can run a fast pace and go from 800 metres out, but she risks becoming a pacemaker over the last 600 metres,' Boyle says. 'There are no Mary Deckers or Zola Budds around any more - people who will take the race on.'

In fact Zola Pieterse will be in the race, but may struggle for pace as well as finishing speed. The woman who can afford to wait is the defending Olympic and world champion, Tatiana Dorovskikh, who saves her winning surge for the finishing straight. Yelena Romanova is unlikely to be more than a few metres behind her.

One woman who could provide pace and still finish well is Mary Decker's successor, PattiSue Plumer. Her presence could assist Murray's ambitions, but as Boyle says: 'You don't get to the Olympics and underestimate anybody. It is so easy to take your eye off the ball.'

(Photograph omitted)