ATHLETICS: Chambers sets record in style

Click to follow
The Independent Online
DAZZLING PERFORMANCES from Dwain Chambers and Steve Smith illuminated a damp and gloomy afternoon here yesterday at the CGU Gateshead Classic.

Chambers won the 100 metres in 10.05sec, the fastest ever legal time by a Briton on British soil while Smith, just under a year since he suffered a serious neck injury which jeopardised his career, set a 1999 world best of 2.36m in the high jump.

The pre-match billing was centred mainly around Haile Gebrselassie, Ethiopia's world 5,000m and 10,000m champion, who was choosing this occasion to run his first competitive mile. He duly won the Emsley Carr Mile in 3min 52.39sec. But while Gebrselassie, attracted to the meeting by funds now available through the new four-year pounds 10m sponsorship from CGU, delivered as expected, the surprises came elsewhere.

Chambers confirmed his emergence as the swiftest of Britain's young sprinters in a race where he was flanked by the world indoor bronze medallist, 23- year-old Jason Gardener, and the 25-year-old who beat him to the European title last summer, Darren Campbell. The 21-year-old from Hornsey was clearly ahead by the time he reached his upright racing stance at 40m. His winning time - which might have been even faster had he not raised his right fist in triumph three metres from the line - also broke the six-year-old stadium record of 10.08sec set by Linford Christie in defeating Carl Lewis shortly before the 1993 World Championships.

It has already been an exciting season for Chambers, who earlier this month became only the second European after Christie to break 10sec, clocking 9.99 in Nuremberg. But he is not taking anything for granted in a season which he hopes will lead to a memorable showing in the world championships in Seville.

Chambers maintains that he is not taking for granted the fact that he will make the World Championship team when he runs in the trials three weeks from now. "I'm seriously worried about making it, even though I will be going to the trials hoping to win," he said. "If the conditions had been warm and dry here, I think I could have gone sub-10 again. But I am just glad its over because I was not looking forward to it. I was so nervous with Darren and Jason on either side of me."

Gardener finished strongly in second place in 10.11 a day after recording 10.12 in Dortmund, the kind of consistency which bodes well for the rest of the season. Campbell looked a lot less happy in seventh place, clocking 10.36, but Chambers remains wary of him. "You don't lose your speed overnight," he said. "Darren will be fine by the trials."

Smith, whose injury while training at Wavertree on 7 July last year was so serious that there were fears that he might not walk never mind compete again, confirmed both his form and his courage by producing his best jump for six years. The Olympic bronze medallist, who was Britain's non-playing captain at last summer's European Cup, has now resumed his full role within British athletics.

"Some years ago people thought I was something special," said Smith, who was still using a restricted run-up to safeguard against a recurrence of his Achilles tendon problems. "I feel I am special again now. To all the people who doubted I could come back from such a serious injury, well I'm back! To jump so high was just so much of a relief. I have had that sort of a big jump in me for well over a year and it has been so frustrating not being able to compete because of my injury problems. To be out of competition for so long is hard but ever since the World Indoors at Maebashi in March I have been feeling myself back into competition and now I am there."

Mark Richardson maintained his current impressive form over 400m with a conservative victory in what, given the conditions, was an outstanding time of 45.03sec against a field that included Britain's World Indoor champion Jamie Baulch, who was fourth in 45.66.

This Friday, Richardson is due to meet the world and Olympic 400m champion Michael Johnson, although the American will make a decision on running in Switzerland today having pulled out of the US championships with a muscle problem.

Despite home advantage and support, Jonathan Edwards could not reverse the result of last Sunday's European Cup triple jump, when he was beaten into second place by Denis Kapustin. The Russian prevailed once again with a final effort of 17.15m, thus condemning Edwards - whose best was 16.98 - to his first successive defeat since his world record breaking year of 1995. "I started the season well, jumping 17.43m, but I seem to have gone right down hill since," Edwards said. "I am jumping awfully. But I am going to run away and lick my wounds, and hopefully I'll be better in Lausanne on Friday."