Slaney reaches Atlanta

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The Independent Online

Mary Slaney qualified for her first Olympics since 1988 at the US Olympic trials in Atlanta on Monday, but Carl Lewis only just scraped into the finals of the long jump.

The 37-year-old Slaney rallied from fifth place in the last three laps to finish second in the 5,000m final and complete an impressive comeback.

"I'm very excited to be here and to be in contention, and I'm going to put in a lot of hard work in the next month because I want to be in the medal hunt in July," she said.

Slaney, considered one of the greatest - and most ill-fated - American female middle-distance runners in history, fin- ished just over a second adrift of the winner Lynn Jennings.

She holds five US records from 800m to 3,000m but has never finished higher than eighth in an Olympic race and has had so many operations on her legs - "18 to 20, somewhere in there" - that she can not remember the exact number.

Monday's trials threatened to repeat her 1984 Olympics disaster in Los Angeles. With about 300m to go, Slaney was clipped on the heel by Amy Rudolph. Unlike the 1984 3,000m, where Slaney fell to the track in a heap after tangling with Zola Budd, she righted her stride and went on to finish second in 15:29.39.

The largely tactical race was won by Jennings in 15:28.18. Rudolph took the third and final spot for the event on the US Olympic team in 15:29.91.

Lewis, the three-times Olympic long-jump champion, qualified only sixth for today's final. The 34-year-old Lewis, who missed out on qualifying for the Olympic 100m on Saturday, recorded only 8.03m, but this proved good enough to move on to the next round. If he fails, Lewis - the winner of eight gold medals over the last three Games - will have only the 200m remaining to qualify for his final Olympics.

"I wanted to stay relaxed, just be smooth today, work on my run," said Lewis, whose long jump victories in 1984, 1988 and 1992 account for three of his Olympic golds. "I didn't want to be too aggressive because I didn't want to risk an injury," added Lewis, who suffered cramp in his right calf while finishing last in the 100m final.

Mike Powell, the world-record holder, and Mike Conley led the qualifying with jumps of 8.32m.