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Pittman eases injury fears

Written by: Staff

MELBOURNE, Mar 22 (Reuters) Australia's Jana Pittman erased any lingering doubts about an injured hamstring with a comfortable win in the 400 metres hurdles semi-finals at the Commonwealth Games today.

The former world champion cruised to victory in 55.06 seconds to qualify fastest for tomorrow's final and remain on course to defend the title she won at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester.

Jamaica's Kemel Thompson topped the qualifiers for the men's 400m hurdles final by lapping the Melbourne Cricket Ground in a slick 48.71, while team mate Chris Williams clocked the fastest time of 20.49 in the men's 200m heats.

Cydonie Mothersill of the Cayman Islands posted the fastest time in the women's 200m heats ahead of another two flying Jamaicans, Veronica Campbell and 100m champion Sheri-Ann Brooks.

Mozambique's Maria Mutola sent out an ominous message in the 800m heats, blowing away her rivals at the start before easing off over the final 100m to settle for the second fastest time overall behind Scotland's Susan Scott.

INJURY SAGA The saga over Pittman's injury has taken on all the proportions of a soap-opera but her performance on Wednesday allayed any concerns about her fitness.

''I'm feeling really great, there's still some fuel in the tank,'' she told reporters.

Pittman's English coach and fiance Chris Rawlinson said he was left with no doubts about her prospects of winning gold after seeing her run.

''She's going in as gold medal favourite and as I see it, she's going to come away with it in front of a home crowd,'' he said.

Mothersill also showed a clean pair of heels to top the 200m times in 23.11 ahead of Campbell (23.17) and Brooks (23.19), winning her heat ahead of South Africa's Geraldine Pillay and Cameroon's Delphine Atangana in a repeat of the 100m final.

''I didn't want to go too fast,'' said Mothersill. ''I wanted to save something for later.'' Mutola, who won gold at the Sydney 2000 Olympics on her last major appearance in Australia, was also in scintillating form.

Showing no sign of fatigue or jetlag after arriving in Melbourne last week after winning the world indoor title in Moscow, the evergreen 34-year-old crushed her opponent's spirits when she opened up a big break at the start and spent the rest of the race out on her own.

''I just wanted to qualify and stay away from trouble,'' she explained.


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