Holmes regains focus to take first steps to historic double

Kelly Holmes, still coming to terms with becoming 800 metres champion, took the first step towards securing a historic Olympic double here last night as she progressed to tomorrow's 1500m semi-final.

Kelly Holmes, still coming to terms with becoming 800 metres champion here, took the first step towards securing an historic Olympic double last night as she progressed to tomorrow's 1500 metres semi-final.

"I was going to wave to the crowd, then I remembered I was actually there to race," she said after easing down to finish second in her race in 4min 05.58sec, the second fastest overall qualifying time.

"I was just trying to relax," she added. "I'm realistic enough to know that what happened in the 800m is going to take it out of me adrenaline-wise. It wasn't easy to come back to the same line and pretend I didn't win last night. But I've got my dream. I'm focusing on the 1500m now and whatever happens, happens.'

Among those who believe that what happens could be another Olympic victory for the 34-year-old former Army sergeant is Sebastian Coe, winner of the Olympic 1500m at the 1980 and 1984 Games.

"She has as good a chance as anybody in the history of the sport who has gone for it," said Coe, who presented Holmes with her medal on Monday night.

But Coe admitted that the task would be a "phenomenally difficult" one. "I tried it three times, Steve Ovett tried it and Steve Cram tried it," he said. "None of us managed it. The only person in modern track and field who achieved it is Peter Snell."

The former champion also commented on Paula Radcliffe's traumatic failure to finish the marathon course on Sunday, suggesting that dehydration might have been a cause. Radcliffe, who is having "ongoing" physiological tests, can leave it until 9am tomorrow to declare whether she wishes to take up her place in Friday's 10,000m final.

Dean Macey's characteristically bold charge for a decathlon medal at the Games he was barely fit enough to contest ended in predictable failure as he was forced to settle for fourth place ­ the position he took four years ago in Sydney ­ in an event won by the Czech Republic's world record holder, Roman Sebrle, with 8893 points.

It was nevertheless a mighty performance from the man whose presence here was described by coach Charles van Commenee ­ with reference to Macey's habitual verbal style ­ as "an effing miracle".

The injuries which prevented Macey competing for three years until his last-minute Olympic qualification at Hexham last month were diminished, rather than absent, as his bandaged left hamstring indicated.

But the 26-year-old Canvey Islander held onto his overnight position despite a couple of severe dips on the second day. A relatively slow 110m hurdles time of 14.56sec in the opening event dropped him three places, and although he responded with a personal best of 48.34m in the discus, a disappointing pole vault of 4.40m left him fifth.

He stayed there after a javelin throw of 58.46 that was down on his personal best of 64.03, but responded again with a defiant 1500 metres in 4min 25.42sec, less than two seconds off his best, which brought a final total of 8414 points.

"I was really struggling mentally during the eighth and ninth events," he said. "But I've never been more determined to get back. I've wasted four years of my life and I don't intend to do it again. I will be back and I will be a lot closer next time."

Russia's pole vaulters Yelena Isinbayeva and Svetlana Feofanova, meanwhile, were playing a game that made poker look tame.

Feofanova was on the brink of victory, having cleared 4.75m and seen her compatriot fail once at 4.70m and once at 4.75m. Isinbayeva gambled her last throw on clearing 4.80m ­ successfully. "I thought, 'This is it, all or nothing'," Isinbayeva said afterwards.

Now the smaller woman was under pressure, failing her first attempt at 4.80m and then seeing Isinbayeva raise the stakes again with a clearance of 4.85m. Feofanova tried that, and failed. The next attempt had to be successful, and she set the bar at Isinbayeva's world record height of 4.90m.

As Feofanova prepared herself, the world-record holder sat with a towel over her head. When she removed it, she was world-record holder and Olympic champion. There was only one more thing she could do ­ and it was duly accomplished when she cleared 4.91. All for her; nothing ­ but silver ­ for Feofanova.

There was satisfaction for Chris Tomlinson, who qualified for the long jump final with an effort of 8.23m, just four centimetres short of his British record, and also for Abi Oyepitan, who reached the 200m final by finishing second in her semi-final in 22.56sec.

Not so for Chris Rawlinson, however. Britain's medal prospect in the 400m hurdles crashed his knee against the first hurdle and finished a disconsolate last before being carried off.

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