Steve Cram set his third world record in 20 days yesterday when he cut one-hundredth of a second off the 2,000-meter mark with a time of 4 minutes 51.39 seconds in Budapest.

Cram, who set the 1,500-meter and mile records last month, was left to run the last 1,000 meters on his own. He was so close to New Zealander John Walker's 9-year-old mark of 4:51.40 that it took several minutes of deliberation before the record was confirmed.

After one stadium clock had shown the 24-year-old Briton to be .06 off the mark and a second clock had put him even with it, close scrutiny of the photo finish revealed that he had the record.

"I'm not likely to do one of those for a while," Cram said after finishing almost 11 seconds ahead of the field. "Basically, you have to run mile-record pace and then add a bit on."

Cram's feat betters the three world records set in 42 days by his compatriot and rival Sebastian Coe, the Olympic 1,500 meters champion, in 1981.

"I've only known for a week that I was going to run the distance here," said Cram, who is scheduled to try to break Coe's 1,000 meters world record Friday at his home town track of Gateshead, in northeast England . . .

British discus thrower Richard Slaney told the London Mail that his wife, U.S. track star Mary Decker Slaney, might soon have British citizenship. "As I see it, being married to me makes Mary more British than (South African-born) Zola Budd," Slaney said.

Budd obtained British citizenship in time for her to compete in last summer's Olympics. Because of its policy of racial separation, her homeland is banned from international sport.

Decker, the world champion at 1,500 and 3,000 meters, married Slaney after the Olympics. Her husband was quoted as saying he planned to include his wife's name on his passport to give her dual nationality. The story was headlined "Mary -- true Brit?" and said Decker then would qualify for a $70,000 prize being offered by a soft-drink company for the first British athlete to break a world record on home soil.