Athletics: Chambers provides the lesson for Montgomery

European 100m champion finally hits top form to repeat last summer's victory over the world record holder
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The Independent Online

Tim Montgomery, the world's fastest man, may have learned something here yesterday; if Mark Lewis-Francis doesn't get you, Dwain Chambers will.

The 100 metres world record holder had arrived for the Norwich Union International at a bright but blustery Scotstoun Stadium under the impression that Lewis-Francis, who had beaten his domestic rival two days earlier at the Oslo Golden League meeting, was the Brit to watch.

But after getting what his two principal opponents felt was a flying start, Chambers, running wide in lane seven, maintained his advantage to win in 10.15 sec, with the American a full stride behind in 10.26, 0.02sec ahead of the 20-year-old Lewis-Francis.

In fact, Chambers did not get a flyer - his reaction time of 0.138sec was comfortably outside the admissible margin of 0.100sec. Montgomery had been far closer to the limit - 0.104sec - in establishing his world record of 9.78 last September.

Chambers' first win of the season has been a long time coming, but this result offered him timely evidence that he is moving in the right direction with the World Championships only seven weeks away.

Reflecting upon his gradual progress, the European champion resorted to what you might, if you were feeling charitable, describe as homespun philosophy: "A patient man will ride a donkey just to make sure he gets to his destination in a safe manner,'' quoth Chambers. "And that's the way I'm taking it at the moment.''

Comparing oneself to a donkey might seem a tad unusual for an international sprinter, especially one who is joint owner of the European record of 9.87 and has already clocked 10.03 this season. But Chambers has never been precious in anything other than an athletic sense.

Montgomery appeared deflated after defeat by the same man who had finished ahead of him in his last race on British soil, at Crystal Palace last summer. "I couldn't believe someone could beat me that bad," he said. "I wasn't able to get properly set at the start and in the end I just stepped out of the blocks.''

The 28-year-old from South Carolina was able, however, to match Chambers in the unofficial Homespun Philosophy Challenge. "'If' is not in my vocabulary,'' spake Montgomery after conceding he has competed in a variety of poor conditions this season. "If a bullfrog had a glass ass it would bust every time.'' How very true - though there are no "ifs" about his next job of work when he faces his predecessor as world record holder, Maurice Greene, on Tuesday in Lausanne.

If Montgomery was muted in the aftermath of the day's showcase event, Lewis-Francis, who had finished 0.03sec clear of Chambers in the opening Golden League meeting of the season in Norway, was miserable. "This race was one too many for me,'' he said. "I'm not happy with the way I ran. I've got a lot of travelling in my body. I just didn't feel right.''

Chambers was one of three British winners in a three-sided match which the United States won with 137 points, with Russia second on 113 and the hosts last with 109. The other maximum points were contributed by Chris Rawlinson, who had won the 400 metres hurdles so impressively at last weekend's European Cup, and John Mayock, whose sprint finish earned him victory in the 1500 metres.

While Rawlinson had lost fractions of a second in Florence as he celebrated on the home straight, his determined run to the line here earned him a season's best of 48.44, close to his four-year-old personal best of 48.14.

Although he was narrowly beaten by the world champion, Felix Sanchez, in Greece last Tuesday, Rawlinson appears to be in ideal form to contest the medals at the World Championships. The only question now seems to be whether the 31-year-old Rotherham athlete can sustain his form, something he has had difficulty doing in the past.

"I am really happy with the time,'' Rawlinson said. "Especially considering the conditions. It is a lot better than last year, but it is still pretty windy out there. My team-mate Matt Elias really helped me as he pushed me over the first 300 metres and together we duffed up the Americans.''

Mayock was a jubilant figure after his late surge had earned him his first win since the AAA Championships in 2001. When his long-standing domestic rival Tony Whiteman went to the front around the final bend you sensed that the 32-year-old Yorkshireman could not let matters stand. Sure enough, the former European indoor 3,000m champion found the acceleration to pass his rival 30 metres from the line. Perhaps he should consider having a cardboard cut-out of Whiteman to chase in every race he enters.

Daniel Caines re-established his credentials as Britain's leading 400 metres runner by finishing second to Derrick Brew of the United States in 45.44. Behind him, Scotland's former sprinter Ian Mackie, competing as a guest in his first season of one-lap running, set a personal best of 46.13, with Britain's European Cup runner Iwan Thomas fourth in 46.22.

Unfortunately, a strong following wind in the Scotstoun Stadium ruled out most efforts in the men's and women's long jump. But there were still some eye-catching marks for the home competitors as Scotland's Darren Ritchie recorded a windy 8.08 metres and, in a women's competition won by America's Grace Upshaw in 6.99m, Britain's Jade Johnson and Kelly Sotherton jumped further than ever before, respectively 6.77 and 6.68m.