Kelly Holmes' prospects of winning next month's world indoor 1500 metres title in Birmingham, already healthy, took another turn for the better yesterday as she became the first British woman to break two minutes for an indoor 800 metres.
The Olympic bronze medallist crossed the line at the Energizer Euro-Series meeting in Ghent, Belgium, in 1min 59.21sec, just 0.38sec behind her training partner Maria Mutola, the Olympic champion.
Holmes, who has never had a serious indoor season until this year, challenged the Mozambique runner throughout the four laps to finish well inside Jan Finch's national record of 2:01.12. set in San Sebastian in 1977.
Britain's hopes in the men's 400 metres also got a lift as Jamie Baulch won the B race in 46.31sec and Daniel Caines, Baulch's successor as world indoor champion, won the A race in 45.90.
Meanwhile, Britain's 60m sprinters have received notice of a testing warm-up for their world indoor campaign with the confirmation that the world 100m record holder Tim Montgomery will race at the Norwich Union Grand Prix on 21 February. The American, along with his girlfriend Marion Jones, recently cut his ties with the discredited coach Charlie Francis, who has previously advocated the use of performance-enhancing drugs.
Jason Gardener, who had become joint fastest man in the world this year with his 6.51sec semi-final timing in Friday's Chemnitz meeting, withdrew from yesterday's event as a precaution, having pulled up with cramp halfway through the final in Germany.
In his absence, Britain's Mark Lewis-Francis struggled to find convincing form, finishing sixth in 6.66 as Coby Miller, of the United States, won in 6.50, having already gone to the top of the 2003 rankings with his heat time of 6.49.
Saturday's Reebok UK Inter-Counties Championships at Nottingham produced four predictable victories for Glyn Tromans, Hayley Yelling, Tom Humphries and Charlotte Dale in, respectively, the senior men's, senior women's, U-20 men's and U-20 women's titles to ensure selection for next month's World Cross Country Championships in Lausanne.
Dale, the European junior champion, maintained her prodigious level of performance in recent events, finishing 48 seconds clear before completing her afternoon with a rigorous hill-training session.
Liz Yelling, runner up in the women's race to her sister-in-law, will now fly out to Albuquerque to train with her old Bedford clubmate Paula Radcliffe, who has still to announce if she will seek a third successive world cross country title.
* Zebedayo Bayo made a decisive break two and a half miles from home to win the Tokyo International Marathon for the first time yesterday. The 26-year-old Tanzanian shook off the home favourite Shigeru Aburaya on a tough incline and crossed the line in 2hr 9min 7sec. Aburaya finished runner-up in 2:09:30, while his compatriot Noriaki Igarashi was third in 2:10:11. The South African Gert Thys, winner in Tokyo four years ago, could only finish seventh, almost four minutes off the pace.
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