Olympic dream of Lewis left with one foot in the grave

Denise Lewis's prospect of defending her Olympic title hangs precariously in the balance once again despite the fact that she is named in the main British team for Athens which was announced yesterday.

Denise Lewis's prospect of defending her Olympic title hangs precariously in the balance once again despite the fact that she is named in the main British team for Athens which was announced yesterday.

Lewis limped out of the long jump at the weekend's Olympic trials in Manchester after aggravating the foot injury that has undermined her fitness ever since she won her gold in Sydney, and a scan has revealed damage considerably worse than first thought.

"I'll now enter a period of rehabilitation which will decide whether I'm able to compete at the Olympics, which are only five weeks away," said the 31-year-old Birchfield Harrier, who will be unable to train for two weeks because of ligament damage in her right ankle.

"The injury is a bit worse than we first thought," said Max Jones, the UK Athletics performance director yesterday. "She's going to miss two weeks, resting and rehabilitating, and then she'll have a week's more training before she and coach Charles Van Commenee make their decision. Obviously, we're all very disappointed about this setback."

Lewis prompted concern when she was helped off the track by a physio after just three attempts at the long jump on Sunday as she competed in her fourth event of a busy weekend. Realistically, even if she makes it to Athens along with her training partner Kelly Sotherton, she is unlikely to be in good enough shape to do herself justice.

Although she has worked extremely hard on her general fitness since re-joining Commenee this season, and has shown excellent form in the javelin and shot putt, her troublesome foot has hampered her progress in the running and jumping events. Even though she is contemplating switching back to her left foot for take off in the jumps, following her initial switch in 1999, there is a strong sense that this most determined of athletes is running out of time.

Elsewhere, only Paula Radcliffe appears to be a gold medal contender, and Jones admitted: "This team is not as strong as Sydney. On the train down to London today I looked at the possible/probable medal contenders in the squad and I counted 12. That number was 16 in Sydney.

"We could still equal the six medals we brought back from Sydney - where we had 11 athletes in the top four, which was a tremendous achievement - but we'd have to perform very well."

The name of another medal contender, Darren Campbell, appears in both the 100 and 200 metres. That will have quelled any anxiety the Olympic 200m silver medallist might have felt after pulling out of the final of the longer sprint on Sunday having hurt his ribs the previous day when falling after taking second place in the 100m.

Britain's newly-converted American 400m runner, Malachi Davis, faces an extra few days before he will know if his ambition to reach the Olympics has been realised.

Although the 26-year-old from Sacramento has the Olympic A qualifying standard this season, his attempt to earn an automatic individual place at the trials, having received his British passport, ended in failure as he could only finish fifth.

A relay place, and perhaps the third individual place, may be his when the final team is named on Monday, but he has been asked to prove his fitness in Saturday's meeting at Loughborough.

Davis's fate is entangled with that of the British runner Sean Baldock, who took third place in the trials but has yet to earn the Olympic A standard of 45.55sec. The Belgrave Harrier had been due to run at Loughborough, but now looks like getting a run in the supposedly warmer climes of Madrid.

He is due to be joined there by another Briton seeking the Olympic A standard before the 19 July deadline, long jumper Chris Tomlinson. The 6ft 6in Middlesbrough athlete still needs to jump 8.19m - but, paradoxically, success would benefit no one other than his main domestic rival, Commonwealth champion Nathan Morgan.

The selectors seem set on picking Tomlinson - who won the European Cup last month in a wind-assisted 8.28m - even if it means they have to select just one long jumper on the B standard of 8.05, which he has achieved. Should Tomlinson achieve 8.19, however, they could also take Morgan on the basis of his A qualifying mark from last year.

Like Campbell, Radcliffe has also been given the chance to double up in events if she wants, although she only requires to have either option open in case her plans to do the marathon encounter problems.

Kelly Holmes is also using the 800m distance, at which she won bronze in Sydney, as a back-up event for her main target of 1500m gold.

GREAT BRITAIN OLYMPIC SQUAD

MEN

100m: D Campbell (Sale), J Gardener (Wessex and Bath), M Lewis-Francis (Birchfield).

200m: D Campbell (Sale), C Lambert (Belgrave), C Malcolm (Cardiff).

400m: T Benjamin (Belgrave), D Caines (Birchfield).

1500m: M East (Newham and Essex Beagles).

5,000m: J Mayock (Barnsley).

Marathon: J Brown (Sheffield), D Robinson (Tipton), M O'Dowd (Swindon).

110m hurdles: R Newton (Sale), A Turner (Notts).

400m hurdles: M Douglas (Belgrave), C Rawlinson (Trafford).

3,000m steeplechase: J Chaston (Belgrave).

Pole vault: N Buckfield (Crawley).

Triple jump: N Douglas (Oxford), P Idowu (Belgrave).

Javelin: S Backley (Cambridge Harriers), N Nieland (Shaftesbury Barnet).

4x100m relay: D Campbell (Sale), M Devonish (Coventry), J Gardener (Wessex and Bath), C Lambert (Belgrave), M Lewis-Francis (Birchfield), C Malcolm (Cardiff). (Additional athletes to be confirmed).

4x400m relay: S Baldock (Belgrave), T Benjamin (Belgrave), D Caines (Birchfield), C Rawlinson (Trafford), R Tobin (Basingstoke). (Additional athletes to be confirmed).

WOMEN

200m: A Oyepitan (Shaftesbury Barnet), J Maduaka (Woodford Green and Essex Ladies).

400m: D Fraser (Croydon), L McConnell (Shaftesbury Barnet), C Ohuruogu (Newham and Essex Beagles).

800m: J Fenn (Woodford Green and Essex Ladies), K Holmes (Ealing, Southall and Middlesex).

1500m: H Tullett (Swansea), K Holmes (Ealing, Southall and Middlesex).

5,000m: J Pavey (Exeter).

10,000m: P Radcliffe (Bedford), K Butler (Windsor, Slough, Eton and Hounslow).

Marathon: T Morris (Valley Striders), P Radcliffe (Bedford), E Yelling (Bedford).

Long jump: J Johnson (Herne Hill Harriers).

Discus: P Roles (Sale).

Hammer: L Shaw (Sale), S Webb (Trafford).

Javelin: G Sayers (Belgrave).

Heptathlon: D Lewis (Birchfield), K Sotherton (Birchfield).

4x400m relay: D Fraser (Croydon), H Karagounis (Birchfield), L McConnell (Shaftesbury Barnet), C Marshall (Edinburgh Woollen Mill), C Ohuruogu (Newham and Essex Beagles).

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