Holmes double?up gamble pays off

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The Independent Online

Kelly Holmes' last–minute gamble was rewarded with a glorious gold medal tonight as she stormed to the Olympic 800 metres title in Athens.

Holmes wept tears of joy after claiming Britain's first athletics gold of the Games in a time of one minute 56.38 seconds.

The former army sergeant only decided days ago to run the two–lap event as well as the 1500m and it proved an inspired decision.

"I absolutely can't believe it, I'm in total shock," the 34–year–old said. "When I crossed the line I thought I had won but then I thought maybe not because everyone was there.

"I had to watch the screen and then someone shouted from the sideline that I'd won and I just couldn't believe it.

"It's a dream come true and something I have been striving for all my life.

"I only made up my mind to compete the night before the first round. I don't know what state I will be in tomorrow but I will be on the start line for the 1500m."

Holmes had found herself in last place in the early stages as American Jearl Miles Clark set a high tempo at the front.

She was still seventh at the bell but then began surging through the field to lie fourth with 200m to go.

So often in the past she has found former training partner Maria Mutola impossible to get past in the home straight, but this time, with years of injury finally behind her, she displayed typical grit and determination to edge past in the final few strides.

Morocco's Hasna Benhassi took silver with Jolanda Ceplak of Slovenia the bronze, Mutola pushed down to fourth on the line.

"I kept to my race plan which was to stay back as long as possible and then I knew the last 150m had to be all out and I decided to go for it," Holmes added.

"I have more strength than speed but I had to risk staying back."

Holmes is the first British woman to win an Olympic title on the track since Sally Gunnell in 1992, and the first since Ann Packer in 1964 to win the 800m crown.

Her stirring triumph was exactly what Team GB needed after Paula Radcliffe's tearful exit from the marathon yesterday, and there promises to be more to come after another brave display from Dean Macey.

Macey, who has only completed one decathlon in three years, was up to fourth place after equalling his personal best in the high jump this evening.

Macey has been plagued by injury since winning bronze at the world championships in 2001, only making the 'B' qualifying standard in Hexham last month.

The 26–year–old from Essex is renowned as a fierce competitor however and was lying seventh overall after the first three events this morning; running 10.89 seconds in the 100m, leaping 7.47m in the long jump and a superb 15.73m in the shot.

Roared on by a noisy British contingent in the crowd, Macey cleared the bar with something to spare on his opening height of 1.85m and his first failure did not come until 2.09m.

He cleared that height at the second attempt and 2.12m at the first time of asking, before needing three attempts to equal his PB of 2.15m.

With his left thigh strapped and the 400m to come, Macey decided not to try for any higher and just minutes later was back in the stadium for the 400m.

A time of 48.97 was well down on his personal best but kept him in fourth with 4,454 points, just 100 behind American Bryan Clay in third.