Lee McConnell made the fastest start to any season in her career with a time of 51.66 to win the 400 metres at the Fanny Blankers Koen Games in Hengelo.

The Glasgow-based Scot smashed the stadium record on Saturday despite blustery conditions, collecting a $4000 prize as she took a three-metre lead over a field which included two women who had already run faster this year, plus Ireland's Joanne Cuddihy who boasts a superior best.

Cuddihy was second in 51.98, and a member of Poland's World Championship squad was back in fifth.

Given the windy conditions, coach Roger Harkins believes McConnell should soon go much faster and the Olympic qualifying mark (51.55) should be a formality. It is a great comfort to McConnell after the back problems which forced traumatic decision to abandon the 400m hurdles at which she won Commonwealth bronze in Melbourne.

"This is my quickest start to a season, and came despite having done a lot of heavy work recently and feeling that in my legs," said McConnell yesterday. "But I'm feeling no ill effect, which is good."

She hopes to get the Beijing time in Geneva next weekend where training partner Carey Easton also has a race which could help book her place in the European Cup relay squad for Annecy next month.

"After that I have a UK league match and hopefully a race in Warsaw on successive weekends."

McConnell had passed the whole field and was ahead by 270 metres.

She is far from complacent about her prospects of making the GB Olympic team in an event in which Britain boasts World gold and silver medallists Chris Ohuruogu and Nicola Sanders, even though her time was fastest by a UK athlete thus far.

The quality in action in the northern Netherlands enclave was a reminder of how the bar is spectacularly raised in Olympic years.

The World champion, Irving Saladino, recorded the best long jump for 14 years (8.73 metres) seventh best ever and fourth at sea level - a reality check on aspirations for Chris Tomlinson who managed just 7.85 for sixth.

But perhaps the biggest revelation was 19-year old Kenyan Pamela Jelimo. She'd never raced outside Africa before, but the girl who won the African Championship 800m title last month clocked 1:55.76, fastest time in the world since 2002. She beat World 1500m champion Maryam Jamal, and broke the 15-year-old world junior best by more than a second.

Ethiopian Haile Gebrselassie staked a claim for a fourth consecutive Olympic 10,000m selection by finishing second (26:51.20) behind compatriot and defending silver medallist Sileshi Sihine (26:50.53). These are this year's two fastest times.

Kenenisa Bekele, Geb's successor as World and Olympic 10,000 champion, won the 5000m (12:58.94) also a year's best. And there was a women's 5k world best this year by 19-year-old Gelete Burka, with 14:45.84.

In that women's 5k, Scot-land's latest recruit, Laura Kenney logged a personal best of 15:45.32, which puts her fifth on the Scottish all-time list, but more than half a minute outside the Beijing qualifying. However Kenny was back in 17th place in a world class field though she had the pleasure of claiming the scalps of experienced senior GB internationalists Hayley Yelling and Helen Clitheroe.

Two other Scots in action, former Stirling University room mates Allan Scott and Andrew Lemoncello, had encouraging starts to the year.

Scott hit the final four flights in the 110m hurdles but still managed to finish fifth with 13.76sec into a 1.7 metre wind. There is much scope for improvement there.

In the steeplechase Fifer Lemoncello, also in his first race of the summer, was ninth, timed at 8:28.17, which is just four seconds outside the Olympic qualifying mark. Eilish McColgan took seven seconds from the Scottish age group best in the 1500m steeplechase yesterday at Gateshead, with 5:00.3.