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Women's 200m PREVIEW

In the absence of double OIympic champion Marion Jones the women’s sprints may appear a little short of glamour. But appearances can be deceptive.

OK, no-one’s come close to running below 22 seconds yet, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a fleet of women primed to do so when it matters most. Apart from Marie-José Pérec’s victory in 1996, every Olympic final since 1980 has been won in sub-22 time.

The woman who has come closest to that this year is Jamaican champion Veronica Campbell, who clocked a personal best 22.18 at her national championships in Kingston at the end of June. She also set a 100m pb of 11.06 in those championships, and recently won the 100m at the London Grand Prix in 11.12, followed by 11.10 in Zurich.

Jones may not be on the starting blocks but USA still has a trio of formidable challengers. Not least among them is the hugely talented 18 year-old Allyson Felix, who began to live up to her promise this year by winning the US Olympic Trials in 22.28, ahead of Muna Lee (22.36).

Felix ran an unratified world 200m record best as a 17 year-old in the high altitude of Mexico City in May 2003, running 22.11. And recently she clipped a massive 0.15 from her 100m pb in Linz, clocking 11.16, showing she is in sharp and hungry form.

Among the best of the rest are Cydie Mothersill, who ran 22.47 into a 1.1 headwind in Madrid; Bulgaria’s Ivet Lalova, who ran 22.51 in the same race; and Belgian champion Kim Gevaert, who has taken her magnificent indoor form (she won world indoor silver over 60m) into the outdoor season, running 22.55, only two hundredths outside her 2002 national record. Gevaert set a new Belgian 100m record of 11.14 twice during July.

Commonwealth champion Debbie Ferguson, French favourites Christine Arron and Muriel Hurtis, and Jamaica’s Aleen Bailey are others to watch out for. Arron beat Ferguson by a whisker, 11.06 to 11.07, in the Zurich 100m, with Bailey only three hundredths behind.

Neither Irina Khabarova, the Russian champion, nor Yuliya Tabakova, their fastest 200m women of 2004, have been picked for this event, but Yelena Bolsun and Yekaterina Kondratyeva will join Tatyana Levina in a strong the Russian squad.

MB