Athletics: Gardener breaks the speed barrier

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HAVING JOINED Dwain Chambers in the elite club of sprinters who have broken 10 seconds for 100m, Jason Gardener is preparing to join his rival in a battle of the Britons in Rome on Wednesday night. The next event on Gardener's schedule, following his 9.98sec in Lausanne on Friday night, is the Golden Gala meeting in the Italian capital and Chambers, a winner in the Gaz de France meeting in Paris yesterday, is also on the entry list for the 100m in the Stadio Olimpico.

It could not be a better timed confrontation, in the wake of Gardener's breakthrough run in Switzerland. Chambers may have beaten him through the 10-second barrier, the 21-year-old Londoner clocking 9.99sec in Nuremburg on 11 June, but Gardener followed in stunning style in Lausanne. The young West Countryman took the scalp of Ato Boldon, the reigning world champion at 200m, in winning his heat in 10.02 secs. In the final, as Boldon sped to victory in 9.86 secs, Gardener took third place in 9.98 - behind Maurice Greene, the 100m world record holder, who clocked 9.93, and ahead of Frankie Fredericks, the most prolific sub-10sec runner.

There is clearly more to come from Gardener. "I only had 50 minutes to recover after the heats," he said. "I was absolutely knackered. The middle part of my race wasn't as good as I would have liked."

Gardener was not as sharp as he would have liked when he raced Chambers in Gateshead a week ago, having competed in Dortmund the previous afternoon. He finished 0.06sec behind in 10.11. The two Britons could push one another closer to the six-year-old British and European record, Linford Christie's 9.87sec, set when winning the world title in Stuttgart.

Gardener, though, is more concerned about making sure of his place in the British team for the world championships in Seville next month. At 23, he has yet to represent Britain as a 100m runner in a major championship. "It's important to get a place in the World Championship team," he said. Gardener needs to finish first or second in the AAA Championship final in Birmingham on 24 July to book his ticket to Seville.

It ought to be a rubber-stamping exercise for him and for Chambers, who clocked 10.12 yesterday in taking two notable scalps. The Belgrave Harrier finished ahead of Dennis Mitchell, winner of the US title last weekend, and Olympic champion Donovan Bailey, who is on the comeback trail following injury.

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