Athletics: Devonish's victory gives Chambers Euro hope
Sunday 16 July 2006
As Marlon Devonish crossed the finish line in the Manchester Regional Arena last night he held his index finger high in celebration of his victory in the 100m final at the Norwich Union European Trials and AAA Championships. As far as the absent Dwain Chambers and the watching Great Britain team selectors were concerned, he might as well have been clutching a "Get Out of Jail Free" card.
With Chambers recovering from a quadricep injury he suffered in the semi-finals, and Mark Lewis-Francis taking third place in the final - behind Devonish and Tyrone Edgar - the selection panel were staring at a dilemma in their choice for the discretionary third 100m place in the team for next month's European Championships in Gothenburg.
Would they give Chambers the chance to regain the continental crown he lost because of his drugs ban, on the strength of his 10.07sec clocking behind Asafa Powell's world-record equalling run at Gateshead last month? Would they invest more faith in Lewis-Francis? Or would they force the pair into a race-off in the Norwich Union London Grand Prix at Crystal palace on Friday week?
The equation looked more straightforward when Devonish, a clear winner in 10.19sec, stepped from the track to intimate that he would be concentrating solely on his specialist distance, the 200m, in Gothenburg. "I'm probably just going to do the 200m," the Coventry Godiva Harrier said. "I need to sit down with my coach, Tony Lester, and, see what happens in the 200m tomorrow. But at the moment I just want to do the 200m in the Europeans."
Confirmation of Devonish's one-track intentions would come as welcome news to Lewis-Francis. He clocked 10.28sec in third place last night - 0.05sec behind Edgar, who has been studying development and leadership at college in Texas since he ran with Lewis-Francis in Britain's victorious 4 x 100m relay team at the World Junior Championships in 2000.
The irony is Chambers' doping indiscretion cost Devonish a European relay gold medal and a World Championship relay silver - the British quartets having been retrospectively stripped of their gains from Munich in 2002 and Paris 2003.
Chambers was disappointed to get caught napping in the blocks at the European Cup in Malaga a fortnight ago, but at least he made it that far. He failed to make it to the final yesterday.
He could afford to apply the brakes at halfway and still win his 100m heat, in 10.58sec. He then qualified for the final, finishing second in his semi-final to Edgar, clocking 10.25sec. It came at the expense of a quadricep injury. "I'm going to have to withdraw from the final as a precaution," he announced. "I was really happy with my form today and thought I was running well, but I'm not prepared to take any risks that might jeopardise the rest of the season."
It was another setback for Chambers, who returned from his two-year drugs ban with an impressive 10.07sec 100m clocking at Gateshead a month ago but finished a stride behind Frenchman Ronald Pognon after his sluggish start in the European Cup race. Not that he was the only notable casualty in the qualifying stages of the 100m yesterday. After clocking 10.67sec as runner-up to Edgar in his heat, Jason Gardener announced his withdrawal. "I just don't feel 100 per cent," he said.
There was nothing wrong with Greg Rutherford's form or fitness in the long jump. The 19-year-old European junior champion from Milton Keynes jumped 8.26m in the last round - 1cm shy of Chris Tomlinson's British record. It was a 12cm improvement on his personal best - a sign that he is taking a big step in the world class direction under the guidance of his new coach, Frank Attoh.
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