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Holmes urges Radcliffe to try, try, try again

Tony Lawrence | August 24, 2004 10:44 IST

Kelly Holmes was not meant to win an Olympic title in Athens and Paula Radcliffe was.

Holmes, try as she might, could still not grasp the way things had turned out on Monday for the two British teammates.

After Radcliffe's marathon challenge had ended in bitter, wretched tears by the side of the road on Sunday, Holmes ran the race of her life 24 hours later to depose her good friend Maria Mutola as Olympic 800 metres champion.

"You dream of this moment," she told a news conference as she tried to control her emotions. "I've been dreaming of it since I was 12.

"I was just waiting for something to go wrong. My career has been so full of ups and downs and things have always gone wrong.

"I was going down the straight, the line just wouldn't come quick enough. I think my heart took me to the line.

"I didn't know I'd won until somebody told me at the side of the track. I was so shocked. I just can't believe it. This is the happiest I have ever been."

Holmes has spent most of her career cursing her luck after a string of injuries wrecked her chances of gold at major championships.

Athens, in particular, was not a favourite place.


She arrived for the 1997 world championships as a Radcliffe-style favourite for the 1,500m only to rupture her Achilles and tear a calf muscle.

"Yes, it ended in floods of tears. I was only here for about 14 hours," she said. "I tried not to think about it this time."

Mutola, the 2000 Olympic champion and a multiple world champion, had helped to maintain Holmes's enthusiasm for the sport after her setbacks when the pair joined up as training partners.

Last year, Mutola won the world championships in Paris but drew criticism for appearing to shepherd Holmes to the silver by blocking some of her opponents.

The two, however, had not been together for five months before Athens. Holmes was endurance training for the 1,500, while Mutola was aiming for the 800. "Our race plans were totally different," Holmes said.

At the last minute, though, delighted with her fitness, Holmes decided to enter both events.

"The programme, with the 1,500 after the 800, meant it was a big risk. But it was a risk whatever I did. If I hadn't gone for it, maybe I would have regretted it."

Holmes had words of comfort for Radcliffe on Monday.

Radcliffe, a banker for the women's marathon title and looking for a career-defining win at a major championships, imploded in the intense heat, 36 km along the road from Marathon to the historic Panathinaiko amphitheatre in Athens.


"It was heartbreaking, seeing how upset she was, I know she shares the same dream as me, getting an Olympic title," Holmes added.

"My heart went out to her. I haven't spoken to her. Maybe she'll go in the 10,000 metres here (on Friday). I'd love to see her run. Everyone in Britain would."

Radcliffe might be tempted by Holmes's success.

Holmes, after all, has always been a 1,500 runner enjoying more success at her secondary event.

Radcliffe is now a marathon runner with a history of near misses in the 10,000. The parallels are uncanny.

Monday evening ended with Holmes receiving her medal from her idol Sebastian Coe.

"He's my childhood hero, and I've told him. I remember how he won silver in the 800 when he was meant to win (at the 1980 Moscow Olympics), and then his face when he came back and won the 1,500," she said.

Holmes's challenge will now be to go one better than Coe by winning a second gold in the 1,500 beginning on Tuesday.

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