Second place does not help Holmes solve Olympic case

Kelly Holmes, a perennial mistress of indecision, still does not have the clear answer she requires about how to proceed at her final Olympic Games after finishing second in the 1500 metres here at the Weltklasse meeting with a performance that was good, but not great.

There are no such doubts for Jamaica's 21-year-old relative newcomer Asafa Powell, however, after he underlined his status as favourite for the Olympic 100m title with a second successive victory over the defending champion, Maurice Greene.

Holmes has been agonising all year, as only she can, about whether to run the 800m or the 1500m, or both, in Athens. The 34-year-old Briton's original intention was to run the metric mile, but thus far her performances over the shorter distance - where she has won Olympic bronze and world silver in the last four years - have been more promising, particularly her emphatic win over Slovenia's European champion, Jolanda Ceplak, in Birmingham last month.

But after being overhauled by Poland's Wioletta Janowska in the final straight after making a long run for home - her second 1500m defeat this year to Janowska, who beat her in Madrid - she will travel to the British holding camp in Cyprus today for a week's intensive training and discussion with her coach, Margo Jennings.

"It's a big choice, a big decision for me," she said as she unlaced her shoes after finishing in the respectable but hardly startling time of 4min 03.48sec, 0.39sec behind the fast-finishing Pole. "I've got to weigh up whether to run in the 800 metres, which might ruin my chances in the 1500m afterwards, or run in just the 1500 and end up regretting not doing the 800."

Holmes's calculations were complicated by events elsewhere, as Turkey's European 1500m champion and world's fastest of last year, Sureyya Ayhan, announced that she would miss the Olympics because of a torn leg muscle. Less than an hour after Holmes's race, Maria Mutola, her friend and training partner, the defending Olympic 800m champion, indicated her mid-season slump in form is over by winning in 1min 57.48sec.

Ayhan was not the only big name to fall out of the Olympic running yesterday. According to sources at the International Association of Athletics Federations, Torri Edwards, the American who inherited the world 100m title after her fellow countrywoman, Kelli White, received a two-year ban for doping offences, is to be be given a two-year ban herself by the US Anti-Doping Agency following her positive test for the banned stimulant, nikethamide. That could open the way for Marion Jones, who finished only fifth in the US trials, to defend her 100m title if the woman who finished ahead of her in Sacramento, the high hurdles specialist Gail Devers, chooses not to contest the sprint.

Jones, who is still being scrutinised by authorities investigating the doping scandal at the Balco laboratory in California, was prevented from competing here by the organisers until the question of her involvement is finally settled one way or the other.

Her predicament drew sympathetic comments from her fellow American Greene on the eve of last night's competition, but after losing out narrowly to Powell, by 9.94sec to 9.93, the self-proclaimed "Greatest Of All Time" sprinter was more concerned with maintaining his own morale.

"I've got a few more things to work on before Athens, but this was better than my last race," Greene said. "Powell is a tough competitor, but tonight doesn't mean anything. Athens is going to be a completely different race, and I have got a great feeling about it."

The 6ft 3in Powell, who only took up sprinting in 2001 after spending his teenage years playing football, had his own take on the proceedings. "I'm feeling great now because I've beaten Maurice Greene again," he said. "I guess I'm the big favourite for the Olympics now. I'm very confident because I've been improving my start a lot and the season is going right."

Earlier in the evening, the meeting witnessed a startling performance in the 800m B race, where Youssef Saad Kamel - the son of Kenya's double world champion, Billy Konchellah - won in 1min 43.11sec, the fastest time in the world this year and a personal best by more than a second.

"I think it is possible for me to do the same as the winner of the B race in Zurich last year," said Kamel, who raced as Gregory Konchellah before changing his name and nationality to compete for Bahrain in 2003. He was referring to Said Guerni Djabir, of Algeria, who went on to win the world title in Paris last summer. Kamel's position as world leader lasted just over an hour until Kenya's Wilfred Bungei won the A race in 1:43.06.

Chris Rawlinson's Olympic aspirations in the 400m hurdles were put in perspective by another dominant performance from the world champion, Felix Sanchez. The man from the Dominican Republic re-emphasised his No 1 standing with a victory in 47.92sec over a field which contained all his main rivals save the Briton, who has chosen to begin his preparations in Cyprus.

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