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Mutola faces stern challenge

John Mehaffey | August 23, 2004 10:29 IST

Maria Mutola has made a remarkable journey from an impoverished shantytown on the outskirts of the Mozambique capital Maputo to her present status as one of the world's elite track athletes.

She is her country's first Olympic gold medallist, the first athlete to record four consecutive World Cup victories and the first person to win the million-dollar Golden League jackpot.

On Monday Mutola has a chance to make more history by becoming the first woman to retain the Olympic 800 metres title, a goal that would have seemed a formality at the start of the season.

Suddenly, though, Mutola looks vulnerable. She has lost more than two weeks' training this year through a hamstring injury and her 36-race winning streak was abruptly ended in Lausanne.

In addition her main rivals, Olympic bronze medallist and training partner Kelly Holmes of Britain and Slovenia's world indoor record holder Jolanda Ceplak, have looked in fine form in the preliminary rounds.

Win or lose on Monday, Mutola must be coming to the end of her career at the age of 31. American 400 metres champion Jeremy Wariner, 20, has just begun his.

Wariner is coached by Clyde Hart, who helped Michael Johnson to the 200-400 double at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, and Hart believes he could succeed his famous predecessor as Olympic champion on Monday.

The pair is different physical types. Johnson was powerful and muscular while Wariner is much leaner.

Wariner ran 44.87 in the U.S. trials, a full tenth of a second faster than anyone else in the semi-finals, and says the best is still to come.

"I have not peaked yet," he said. "Nobody knows how it will look when I am back at my peak."Maria Mutola has made a remarkable journey from an impoverished shanty town on the outskirts of the Mozambique capital Maputo to her present status as one of the world's elite track athletes.

She is her country's first Olympic gold medallist, the first athlete to record four consecutive World Cup victories and the first person to win the million-dollar Golden League jackpot.

On Monday Mutola has a chance to make more history by becoming the first woman to retain the Olympic 800 metres title, a goal which would have seemed a formality at the start of the season.

Suddenly, though, Mutola looks vulnerable. She has lost more than two weeks' training this year through a hamstring injury and her 36-race winning streak was abruptly ended in Lausanne.

In addition her main rivals, Olympic bronze medallist and training partner Kelly Holmes of Britain and Slovenia's world indoor record holder Jolanda Ceplak, have looked in fine form in the preliminary rounds.

Win or lose on Monday, Mutola must be coming to the end of her career at the age of 31. American 400 metres champion Jeremy Wariner, 20, has just begun his.

Wariner is coached by Clyde Hart, who helped Michael Johnson to the 200-400 double at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, and Hart believes he could succeed his famous predecessor as Olympic champion on Monday.

The pair are different physical types. Johnson was powerful and muscular, Wariner is much leaner.

Wariner ran 44.87 in the U.S. trials, a full tenth of a second faster than anyone else in the semi-finals, and says the best is still to come.

"I have not peaked yet," he said. "Nobody knows how it will look when I am back at my peak."


Athens 2004: The Complete Coverage

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