It is all about timing. And in Dwain Chambers' case it looks like being spot on. That was more than could be said for the Omega system that went into meltdown as the north Londoner emerged victorious from the men's 100 metres final, the showpiece event of the Norwich Union London Grand Prix here last night.
For several moments the 18,500 sell-out crowd packed into the south London arena believed they had seen the Belgrave Harrier break the human speed limit. The legend "1. D Chambers 9.53" flashed up on the scoreboard as Chambers embarked on a lap of honour. The athletically uneducated among the audience screamed in delirium, believing they had seen the 25-year-old smash Tim Montgomery's 9.78sec world record to smithereens. The aficionados - and Chambers - knew better.
With no time displayed on the track-side clock, it was clear that the timing system had gone awry. Thus it proved. "There was a problem with the electronic start," a spokesman for meeting organisers Fast Track said. "It switched to manual. We are trying to calculate the times by manual means."
Chambers' time was subsequently announced as 10.0 - the same figure credited to the four men who followed him across the line, Kim Collins, Deji Aliu, Bernard Williams and Justin Gatlin.
It came as no surprise to the winner. "I reckon I ran something in the low-9.90s," he said. "I wasn't aware that they'd put 9.53 on the scoreboard. There was no way it was that quick."
Still, amid all of the confusion, it seems has timed his run into form pretty much to perfection. As he surged past Aliu with 40m to go and held off the fast-finishing Collins, the European champion claimed a crucial psychological advantage over his rivals two weeks away from the start of the World Championships in Paris.
"I've got the fight in me," he said. "For these guys to come to my home turf to try to take my glory away... I just wasn't having it."
The sight of Chambers leading the world's speed merchants was tempered by the vision of Jonathan Edwards being taken away on a stretcher from the arena.
The 37-year-old triple jumper, Britain's only reigning world champion, twisted his right ankle while veering off the runway, on to the concrete as he negotiated the take-off phase in his fifth round attempt. He was rushed to the physio room, clearly in agony, with a question mark hanging over his ability to defend his title in the Stade de France.
The same doubts are hovering over Montgomery. Having followed his two sluggish runs in Stockholm on Tuesday with another embarrassing jaunt among the also-rans last night, the man from Gaffney, South Carolina, suggested that he might not bother putting his rapidly-fading reputation on the line in Paris.
Stumbling out of his starting blocks in the second of the two 100m heats, Montgomery was unable to summon the power that pushed him to his world record time in the Grand Prix final in Paris last September. He crossed the line fifth in a wind-assisted 10.13sec, an improvement on the 10.39sec and 10.37sec he clocked in Sweden. It was not good enough to take him through to the final as he trailed in the high-speed wake of Collins (9.97sec), Gatlin (10.03), Williams (10.04), Mark Lewis-Francis (10.09) and Jason Gardener (10.11).
"I have to make a decision with my coach," Montgomery said, when asked about his World Championship intentions. "It won't be a last-minute decision."
As he departed to consult his trainer, Dan Pfaff, and his agent, Charlie Wells, he even cast doubt on his scheduled appearance in the Golden League meeting in Berlin tomorrow. "I have some races lined up," he said. "We'll have to make a decision about that too."
Having departed from the European circuit six weeks ago, following the birth of his son, Tim Jnr (to his high speed partner, Marion Jones), Montgomery has clearly lost what momentum he had with three early-season clocking of 10.04sec. After the pregnant pause, the fastest man in history is showing no sign that he can still deliver - unlike Chambers, the man with the best timing of all at Crystal Palace last night.
Kim Batten's world record for the women's 400m hurdles was eclipsed at the Russian Championships in Tula yesterday. Yuliya Pechonkina, a silver medallist at the World Championships in Edmonton two years ago, clocked 52.34sec - an improvement of 0.27sec on the record set by the American at the 1995 World Championships in Gothenburg.Reuse content