Athletics: Chambers and Hansen continue on comeback trail at European trials
Saturday 15 July 2006
British athletics, still digesting the news that a second attempt at hosting a meeting between 100m world record holders Justin Gatlin and Asafa Powell has fallen through, will look towards this weekend's European Championship trials in Manchester for diversion.
Although there are few events where an oversubscription of talent guarantees high levels of competitive pressure, there are several which could generate high levels of emotion - notably today's men's 100 metres, where Dwain Chambers is seeking to earn a chance to regain the European title that was stripped from him following his doping ban, and today's women's triple jump, where another European champion of 2002, Ashia Hansen, will return to competition for the first time since the knee injury she suffered two years ago.
Chambers' reason for absence was entirely different from that of Hansen's, but he made a spectacular comeback himself last month in recording 10.07sec at the Gateshead meeting where Powell equalled his own world mark of 9.77.
His subsequent performance in the European Cup, where he finished second in 10.19, was satisfactory rather than stupendous, but the 28-year-old Londoner has instantly restored himself to the top of Britain's flagging sprint rankings, and should maintain that position to give himself the chance to manage in Gothenburg what he gained so fleetingly in Munich four years ago.
With Jason Gardener still suffering from a back injury, Chambers' strongest challengers are likely to be Mark Lewis-Francis, who ran 10.20 in Gateshead, Tyrone Edgar, who has recently clocked 10.20, and Tim Abeyie, who won impressively at the Loughborough meeting in 10.22.
Hansen has done better than many observers believed possible simply by returning to a position where she can contemplate top-class competition, given the horrendous nature of the injury she suffered during the 2004 European Cup in Poland, where she suffered a displaced kneecap and ruptured tendons. The 34-year-old former European, Commonwealth and world indoor champion needed three operations to reach this point, and the memories of that traumatic day are still fresh.
Hansen, who has had operations on her feet, heels and ankles as well as suffering injuries to neck, wrist, ribs and Achilles tendons, still hopes to compete in her third Olympics, in Beijing in 2008. She should have things relatively easy today, but her hopes of achieving the élite qualification standard of 14.10m have dipped following a reaction to her last jumping session a week ago, when she suffered further pain her knee. "She is still absolutely keen to compete," said her coach Aston Moore yesterday. "Before this setback she was jumping 13.5m off a shortened run-up, but we have been unable to train this week so we will just have to see how she goes."
Tim Benjamin, a world 400m finalist in Helsinki last year, will continue his recovery from injury, while Rebecca Lyne will seek to consolidate an outstanding season so far in the 800m, where she is now the third-fastest British woman ever, behind Kelly Holmes and Kirsty Wade with 1min 58.20sec.
Lyne is likely to face considerable opposition in tomorrow's final, including Commonwealth finalist Susan Scott and Karen Harewood, the 30-year-old who broke through with an indoor 2:00.53sec this season.
Tomorrow's men's 800m final also looks like being competitive, given the entry of Richard Hill, who ran 1:45.10 at Watford last month, and his fellow 20-year-old Michael Rimmer, who ran 1:45.47 in the same race.
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