Dwain Chambers improved his season's best 100 metres time by more than a tenth of a second last night at the Tsiklitiria Super Grand Prix. But despite running 10.03 seconds, 0.13sec faster than he has run this year, the European champion finished runner-up to Nigeria's Deji Aliu and left the Greek venue even more determined to improve his form with the World Championships just over the horizon in August.
Chambers has two ideal opportunities to do that in the next five days as he faces the US world record holder, Tim Montgomery, in Oslo on Friday and then in Glasgow on Sunday.
But on a windless night in the small Greek stadium of Trikala, 200 miles from the normal Athens venue where the Olympic Stadium is being renovated for next year's Games, he was upstaged by the former world junior champion.
"It was my day, I was thrilled," said Aliu. "Now I will compete against the Americans in Paris."
Chambers was less ebullient afterwards, initially describing his performance as "a joke" until he saw the finishing time. "Everyone knows I didn't have the best of winter's training," said Chambers, who missed several weeks of warm-weather work in the United States after injuring his ankle on an elevator. "Now I have to make up for it by running in more races like this.
"I know I can go faster. It might mean losing again, but I've been down that road before. Everything is geared to the World Championships and I am making sure I get there in perfect shape."
Darren Campbell was not happy when told he had finished sixth in the race. He confronted the meeting organisers to complain and after an hour of deliberation, the times were amended to place him fourth in 10.16sec.
Chambers also started the 200m, but pulled up on the first bend. There was no suggestion of an injury as the Olympic champion Kostadinos Kenderis gave the home crowd a pleasing victory in 20.30, with Aliu third and Britain's Marlon Devonish (20.50) fourth.
Chris Rawlinson was also more than content after finishing third in the 400m hurdles. Having won the European Cup title in Florence, Rawlinson had raised hopes that he might be able to make an impact upon the current world champion, Felix Sanchez, but the Dominican Republic athlete, unbeaten last season, won in the fastest time this year of 48.07.
Behind him, fast-finishing Ian Weakley third for Jamaica in Manchester last year when Rawlinson won the Commonwealth title just beat the Briton to second place. Weakley finished a marginal .02 to the good in 48.55, but Rawlinson was pleased with his race.
"There's no excuses. I think I ran very well," said Rawlinson, who beat off the challenge of some of the world's top hurdlers including the Olympic silver medallist, Saudi Arabia's Hadi Al-Somaily, and last year's European Championships runner-up, Jiri Muzik, of the Czech Republic.
"I think fatigue set in," added Rawlinson, who had to travel by a charter flight and bus to the hinterland of central Greece. "These past three or four days have been extremely tiresome with all the travelling. It took me 11 hours to get here.
"The two races I had at the weekend also took a lot out of me and Felix [Sanchez] was a fresh man running his first for almost a fortnight. But all credit to him. I always knew it would be hard to beat him, but no one can say I didn't give it my best shot. I came back at him when he went past. At the end he was just too strong and I was weakening.
"The run has given me confidence and shows I am going in the right direction. I can only get better. Just watch me in Paris."
Meanwhile, Kelly Holmes has admitted that she came close to quitting athletics at the end of last season, despite the fact that she had regained the Commonwealth 1500 metres title she first won in 1994.
"I'd lost my motivation," she said yesterday as she looked forward to opening her new season in Glasgow on Sunday. "I'd had lots of ups and downs with injuries. It's hard year after year. I needed something to keep me going."
Happily for British athletics, the 33-year-old found that something in the form of one of her great rivals over the last decade, Mozambique's world and Olympic 800m champion Maria Mutola, with whom she has spent the winter training in South Africa.
"She is fast and strong and I have the endurance," Holmes said. "We complement each other. Training can be very lonely as an athlete, especially as a female. She made the sessions more bearable."Reuse content