Gritty Macey takes great leap forward

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As Kelly Holmes crossed the line in the Olympic Stadium last night, her facial features frozen in sheer disbelief, at the opposite end of the arena, Dean Macey was staring at the high jump bar, his face a picture of steely intent.

The decathlon man from Canvey Island has had many barriers to overcome in the three years since he last appeared on the international stage, standing on the podium with a world championship bronze medal around his neck in Edmonton. Saving his career from the clutches of a stricken hamstring has been the biggest of them.

Only four weeks ago Macey needed a last-ditch attempt at the qualifying standard in Hexham simply to make the grade for the Athens Olympics. He worked wonders just to get to the Greek capital.

Once here, however, the clown prince of British athletics was always liable to make his ebullient presence felt. And thus it proved, as Macey worked his way up the rankings from 15th to fourth on day one of his ten-event test of all-round athletic ability - and character.

Macey has character in spades. He showed it after dislodging the high jump bar with his first two attempts at 2.15m, his lifetime best. He gritted his teeth, clenched his fists, and sailed over at the third time of asking, punching the air as he hit the landing mat.

'Winning' one event might be a small step in the two-day scheme of the decathlon, but for Macey, after three hard years in the wilderness, it was one gigantic leap. The Essex man was back among the big boys.

His left hamstring heavily strapped, Macey is still making his way back to something approaching the fullest of fitness. If he ever makes it, nobody should be in any doubt that he can get to the very top - to the kind of pinnacle Holmes scaled in the home straight last night.

Within half an hour, Macey was on the track himself, performing home-straight heroics of his own. Accompanied by chants of "Deano, Deano" from the 63,000 crowd, he finished his day with a rousing victory in the fifth and final heat of the 400m, crossing the line in 48.97sec before falling flat on his back and gasping for air.

It left Macey in fourth place overnight, with 4,454 points - within striking distance of the medal positions occupied by Dmitriy Karpov of Kazakhstan, who led with 4,689 points, Bryan Clay of the USA, who was second with 4,594 and Roman Sebrle of the Czech Republic, in third with 4,554. All that, after hauling his way up from 15th after a 10.89sec 100m, to ninth after a 7.47m long jump, to seventh after a 15.73m shot put.

"I've no clue where I pulled that from," Macey said. "The crowd were awesome. That definitely helped. I'm not in great running shape. My hamstring is sore. I don't know if I can get a medal, but stranger things have happened. I've just got to come out tomorrow and kick some ass... I just hope I don't kick mine."

Abi Oyepitan is threatening to take British women's sprinting into the global fast lane for the first time since Kathy Cook retired in 1986. A time of 22.50sec in the first round of the 200m was 0.19sec better than her previous best, and only bettered on the British all-time list by Cook's 20-year-old UKa record of 22.10sec.