Athletics: British relay gold is Campbell's tip

Click to follow
The Independent Online
TWO THINGS emerged from Saturday's eagerly-awaited 100 metres final at the CGU World Trials, writes Mike Rowbottom in Birmingham. Despite Jason Gardener's admirably composed victory over his two leading rivals, Dwain Chambers and Darren Campbell, you would still not put money on these three finishing in the same order at next month's World Championships.

However, judging by the mood of confidence and comradeship all three displayed after their race, you would be on safer ground if you wagered on them winning a gold medal in the relay. Traditionally, the United States regard any relay as their domain. Only once in recent years has a British team managed to better them to win a big title, when the 400m quartet anchored by Kriss Akabusi kicked the Americans' butts - as they put it on their celebratory tee-shirts - at the 1991 World Championships.

But the feeling is growing - at least on the British side - that the Americans might be made to pay once again for over-confidence. Maurice Greene, in whose wake the sprinting world now trails, was ever so polite about Gardener's prospects when he came to London last week to publicise his appearance at the CGU British Grand Prix on 7 August, but earlier this month he was dismissive of Britain's relay ambitions. "Wherever I am," he said "if they give me the stick, I'll win."

John Smith, Greene's coach, reacted without surprise when he heard of Britain's high hopes, saying that US sprinters were so arrogant that they never bothered to practice change-overs.

Campbell, relieved to have earned the third qualifying place for Seville after rumours had reached him from within the sport that he was not expected to make it after his recent indifferent form, appears to be leading the relay charge for the British.

"I think we are going to win it," he said, as he, Gardener and Chambers sat alongside each other at an amiable press conference. "We have just raced, and we are cool with one another. That's the difference between us and the Americans. Whatever happens in the individual race at Seville, we will all be friends, all working towards getting the gold."

Gardener, his face beaming relief after regaining the title with a wind- assisted time of 10.02sec, confirmed Campbell's analysis of the prevailing spirit within the camp. "We are all up front with each other," he said. "If people make mistakes we can comment on it without any disrespect because we all really want to win."

Campbell outlined the choice facing the team next month. "We could go out there and play safe and win silver," he said, "or we could go for it." He added with a grin: "We have already decided what we are doing. We're not going there for anything less than gold."

Britain's European champion was less gung-ho about British prospects in the individual sprint, although he predicted there would be less pressure on them in Seville. "The spotlight will be on Maurice, Ato Boldon and Frankie Fredericks, and we could slip through the back door," Campbell said.

Britain's three musketeers will have plenty of opportunities to test their steel in the next month as they are scheduled to meet Greene on three occasions before the World Championships - in Stockholm on Friday, at Crystal Palace and then in Zurich on 11 August.

Chambers' reaction on hearing that Greene was in the field at Stockholm was, "Is he? Oh man!" He momentarily put his head in his hands and said something about the respect in which the world record holder is held, but the relay team still has golden possibilities.