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|August 19, 2000||
Freeman runs year's fastest 400m
With the weight of Olympic expectation growing in her native Australia, Cathy Freeman strode to the fastest 400 metres time of the year at the Monaco Golden League meeting on Friday.
The World champion, Australia's only realistic hope of a track gold at the Sydney Olympics starting next month, clocked 49.48 seconds after pushing hard for the first half and maintaining her form over the second 200 metres.
The performance was clearly significant for the Olympic favourite after she pulled out of the London Grand Prix on August 5 with a leg strain.
"I was very nervous tonight because of the injury," she said. "It was a good time and a good race."
Asked the inevitable question about the pressure on her to win in Sydney, Freeman replied: "There's always pressure but I'm patient. I can wait for the next few weeks for the Olympics to arrive."
Maurice Greene repeated his victory in Zurich last Friday in his second race since pulling up lame in the U.S. trials 200 metres final.
The world 100 champion and record holder clocked 10.01 seconds, holding his right index finger high after crossing the line to signify he was still the number one.
He limped heavily through his victory lap, appearing to favour his left leg, but said afterwards nothing was wrong.
"It was nothing," Greene said. "I have been training very hard and expected to run faster."
Gail Devers, twice the Olympic 100 champion and now chasing her first Olympic 100 hurdles title, won again on Friday in a useful 12.54 seconds but was far from pleased with her performance.
"I won but it was really sloppy," she said. "People say this year I'm really looking like a hurdler but I didn't look like one tonight. I didn't look a sprinter either. I didn't look like anything."
Javier Sotomayor, the Cuban high jumper cleared to compete in Sydney when the world governing body halved his two-year drugs ban for cocaine, showed he is still a major medal contender despite a year out of competition.
The world record holder and 1992 Olympic champion cleared a winning 2.30 metres in only his second competition since his suspension was lifted.
"I was very much surprised," he said. "It makes me very happy. A gold medal will be difficult because I've missed a year. I need more competitions."
Irina Privalova, the former European 200 champion who has switched to the demanding one-lap hurdles this season had a morale-boosting win ahead of the American champion and Olympic favourite Sandra Glover.
The 31-year-old Russian clocked 54.06 seconds with Glover fading to fourth in 54.51. Only Glover and Morocco's former world champion Nezha Bidouane have run faster this year.
Privalova took some minutes to recover from the demands of the most exhausting of all track races.
"I think I can win gold in Sydney," she said. "But this event is much harder than I thought."
South African Llewellyn Herbert, the 1997 world silver medallist, also upset an American, relegating Eric Thomas to third place in the men's 400 hurdles.
Tegla Loroupe, Kenya's tiny world marathon record holder, came desperately close to winning the women's 3,000 metres after taking the lead with 600 metres remaining ahead of team mate Lydia Cheromei.
Chermomei regained first place a lap later and the pair battled it out down the finish straight with the Kenyan cross country champion just edging ahead at the line.
Cheromei clocked 8:30.80 with Loroupe, who will be racing over more than three times the distance over 10,000 metres in Sydney, second 0.15 of a second behind.
Algeria's world bronze medallist Djabir Said-Guerni won the men's 800 metres ahead of Kenyan Commonwealth champion Japeth Kimutai in 1:43.79, fourth fastest time in the world this year.
Mail Sports Editor
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