Athletics: Greene gatecrashes the Palace

World sprint record holder crushes British challengers to sound ominous warning for Seville
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The Independent Online
WITH SPECTACULAR bad timing, the showpiece event of the British track and field season kicked off two minutes after the new football campaign yesterday. At least the cancellation of the masters' 100m race left Wimbledon's fitness coach free to race up the M25 to check on his charges at Watford.

Unlike Daley Thompson, Steve Cram, Britain's other golden boy from the inaugural world championships in Helsinki 16 years ago, still had a job to do at the CGU British Grand Prix. While his beloved Sunderland were returning to the Premiership with a bump at Stamford Bridge, Jarrow's quick-marcher was on duty at the Palace.

There was one notable absentee from the BBC television team, of course, but before his withdrawal from small-screen summarising Linford Christie expressed reservations of his own about the bad timing of this meeting at Crystal Palace.

It was not the unfortunately timed news of his positive drugs test that concerned him but the appearance of so many world-beaters on British soil (14 world champions, 10 world record holders) so close to the World Championships, which start in Seville on Saturday week. "Why do we need them here to destroy the confidence of our guys?" the 100m world champion of 1993 demanded.

The stars of the show were indeed from foreign fields - from the land of the stars and the stripes - and they were certainly in destructive mood. Maurice Greene and Marion Jones, respectively the fastest man and the fastest woman on earth, destroyed the opposition pitted against them in their 100m races and did the same to the British all-comers' records.

In emerging victorious from the men's race in 9.97 seconds, Greene became the first sprinter to break 10 seconds without wind assistance on these shores. The previous legal best in Britain stood at 10.03sec to Jon Drummond, who trains with the world champion and who led him out of the blocks yesterday.

Even below his best, with an uncharacteristically sluggish start, the Kansas Cannonball was too powerful for his rivals, the Canadian Bruny Surin taking second place in 10.02sec and Drummond fading to fifth. But the confidence of at least one of the Britons in the field was hardly left in a state of destruction. After losing to Jason Gardener in the world championship trials and in the Stockholm grand prix meeting, Dwain Chambers got the better of his closest domestic rival (Gardener was sixth in 10.14sec) and matched one of the achievements boasted by his manager, one Linford Christie. Crossing the line third in 10.04sec, the 21-year- old Londoner recorded the joint fastest legal 100m time by a British athlete in Britain.

Jones, making her first competitive appearance in Britain, became the first woman to break 11sec here for 100m. She did so with a vengeance, too, clocking 10.80sec, the fastest time in the world this year and a stunning 0.22sec quicker than Merlene Ottey's 10-year-old British all- comers' record. It was also significantly faster than the late Florence Griffith Joyner managed on her only appearance in Britain after her 10.49sec world record run in Indianapolis in 1988.

Flo-Jo stopped the trackside clock at a modest 11.54sec in the Dairy Crest Games at Gateshead on the eve of her last hurrah at the Seoul Olympics.

There was no stopping the multi-talented Jones yesterday as she tackled her last 100m before attempting her four shots at Spanish gold in Seville: the 200m, the long jump and the 4x400m relay are also on her world championship agenda. She powered from her blocks, leaving her nominal rivals fighting for second place, a minor battle won by Zhanna Pintusevich in 10.98.

"I think it could be broken one day," the 23 year-old Californian replied when asked about Griffith Joyner's world record.

There were two British victories in the field - Jonathan Edwards in the triple jump with 17.06m and Steve Smith in the high jump with 2.28m - but just one home win from the 15 international track races on the programme. It came courtesy of the golden boy of British athletics in the 200m, Julian Golding surging from fourth to first in the home straight to win in 20.23sec.

In doing so, in his gracefully smooth style, the Blackheath Harrier overhauled Claudinel Da Silva, the Brazilian who took the World Championship bronze medal behind Ato Boldon and Frankie Fredericks in Athens two years ago.

Paula Radcliffe is no stylist, and no sprinter either, but in her ungainly nodding-dog fashion she produced a British record-breaking 5,000m run. Forcing the pace with Zahra Ouaziz until the bell, the Bedford woman took second place behind the Moroccan in 14min 43.54 sec, almost two seconds inside her own British record.

It earned her a $10,000 bonus, the same prize Ouaziz collected for clocking the world's fastest time this year: 14:42.03. More importantly, it will send her off to Seville in form to challenge for her first major track medal, in the 10,000m. Her timing could hardly have been more perfect.