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Monday 4 August 1997
Issue 801

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  • Injury curse hits Holmes
    By Iain Macleod

    Greene runs race of his life to take Bailey's title

    KELLY HOLMES was last night in a Swiss clinic in Magglingen receiving treatment for the Achilles and calf injuries which forced her to pull up 150 metres from the finish of her 1,500m heat on Saturday. Holmes called it "a curse" after having to endure the frustration of injury at a major championship for the second time in 12 months.

    It was the first time that Holmes had failed to finish a race, and at a time when she had run the 1,500m more than five seconds quicker than anyone else in the world this year, her stock had never been higher. She was a strong favourite to win the title.

    Holmes was in terrible pain when she pulled up, and it provided an evocative comparison with her situation at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, where she was hobbling on crutches outside the stadium having thrown her spikes in the bin, after finishing fourth in the 800m and 11th in the 1,500m.

    The hairline fracture of her lower left leg was the condition diagnosed then. Holmes's premature exit this time has opened up the event for, as America's Regina Jacobs remarked: "This changes everything. Kelly had the most awesome kick out of anyone."

    This was especially true as the Olympic champion, Svetlana Masterkova, was nursing an ankle injury and, having struggled to qualify for yesterday's semi-finals, failed to finish after she pulled up 30m from the finish and was taken away on a stretcher.

    Holmes, who broke the British record in Sheffield in June, when she ran under four minutes for the first time, had visited Munich last week to see Dr Hans Muller-Wolfhart, the German doctor who looks after top sportsmen and women including Linford Christie.

    "Everything's been going perfect in training but then, two weeks ago, I finished a session and suddenly felt my left Achilles," Holmes explained. "I thought it was OK after Munich. It was a bit tight at the start, but I expected that because I've not run for two weeks.

    "But then, halfway through I felt my calf go. I dropped back and the pain went away, but at 150m it was causing spasms, like having a golf ball in there. There was nothing I could do. I just feel somebody's put a curse on me and I want them to lift it."

    But whatever sympathy there is for the athlete, there was none for the British Athletic Federation who, despite having prior knowledge that Holmes was injured, not only did not divulge it, but continued to tout the athlete as one of Britain's leading gold medal prospects at these championships.

    Neither the team manager, Phil Green, nor David Moorcroft, the BAF's chief executive-elect, were aware of the problem, and the latter even spoke on BBC TV on Friday, extolling the prospect of Holmes winning her first world title. Malcolm Arnold, the BAF's performance director, when asked on Friday about the health of the team, did not even offer a hint that Holmes had problems.

    This is not the first time that accurate details of a Holmes injury have not been made available. In Atlanta, the BAF first distributed information that Holmes wanted to dispel media speculation that she was injured - four days later, the same organisation admitted it was true.

    Yet Ireland's Sonia O'Sullivan, who must now have a chance of gold, said: "I knew about a week ago, I'd heard it through the grapevine but I didn't know how bad it was. After what she went through in Atlanta, I'd assumed that if she was standing on the start line everything would be OK."

    O'Sullivan was fourth in the first semi-final in 4 min 04.67 sec and looked as if she will be a major contender for the gold in tomorrow night's final, where Olga Nelyubova, of Russia, and Portugal's Carla Sacramento will also be in contention.

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