Athletics: Lambert coasts home as Campbell puts faith in selectors

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The Independent Online

Chris Lambert and Christian Malcolm booked their Olympic 200m places here yesterday in the climactic event of an overcast weekend's activities at the Norwich Union Olympic trials and AAA Championships.

Chris Lambert and Christian Malcolm booked their Olympic 200m places here yesterday in the climactic event of an overcast weekend's activities at the Norwich Union Olympic trials and AAA Championships.

Lambert, who was impressive throughout the rounds, finished smoothly in 20.94sec, with Malcolm, an Olympic finalist four years ago, working hard to maintain second place.

The final took place without Darren Campbell, who opted out on doctors' orders after qualifying in his semi-final. He was suffering the effects of the tumble he took after finishing second in the previous day's 100m final.

However, the Sydney silver medallist's form should see him named in both sprints for the Games, enabling him to maintain a successful record in doubling up, which he has established since 1998.

If that is how the selectors view it when they announce their main team tomorrow, it will mean disappointment for the man who finished third yesterday in 21.27sec, Dwayne Grant, and the two proven performers who followed him home - last year's world indoor champion, Marlon Devonish, who has struggled to overcome injury in the last couple of weeks, and last year's trials winner, the 1998 Commonwealth champion Julian Golding.

"I wanted to get in there and shake it up, and I did well," Lambert said. "I wanted to run faster in the final, but the conditions weren't right today. Athens is where I'm going to peak my season."

The roller-coaster that deposited American citizen Malachi Davis on these shores with a newly-acquired British passport and a desire to earn an Athens place in the 400m for his adopted country eventually finished on a dip after Saturday's high-point performance.

The 26-year-old from Sacramento could only finish fifth in a final in which the two automatic qualifying places were taken by the European Cup champion Tim Benjamin, who won in 45.58sec, and former world indoor champion Daniel Caines, second in 45.88.

For the amiable Davis, who only touched down in London on Friday evening, it proved to be a race too far. "I have no excuses and no regrets," he said. "Tim and... Daniel - I'm sorry, I'm still learning all the names, did a great job." Davis, who qualified to run for Britain through the nationality of his mother, Ava, now plans to return to the United States to watch some of his training partners at the US Olympic trials, but he is waiting for the call to join Britain's relay team.

It seemed he had not managed to avoid the jet lag he had feared as he warmed up for yesterday's race - "I was saying to myself, 'Wake up! Wake up!'," he recalled with a smile. "But I'm very excited to be running. Back in the States I never got any of this kind of attention." Having run a personal best of 45.52sec this season, inside the Olympic A qualifying mark of 45.55, he may yet get a call in the individual event if the man who finished third here, the very English Sean Baldock, cannot achieve that time in the space of the next week.

Asked what he would be doing to get the mark in time, Baldock's first response was: "Pray." Baldock would love to run somewhere hot, perhaps in Madrid next weekend - but he has no invitation to the meeting. "Unless someone, somewhere, helps me out, it looks as if I will be running at Loughborough next Saturday and the weather will probably be the same as it was today. It's just a shame we don't all run in Texas."

But Baldock welcomed the presence of Davis, even if it might mean him losing out on an individual run in Athens. "Everyone has a dream of making the Olympics," he said. "If that's his, you can't argue with it."

Jade Johnson's Olympic dream remained intact as she won the long jump ahead of heptathlete Kelly Sotherton with an effort of 6.72m, one centimetre less than her personal best and, crucially, two centimetres more than the Olympic A qualifying standard which she had thus far failed to achieve.

The relief was palpable for the European and Commonwealth silver medallist. "I'm feeling really good, finally," she said. "It's taken a little bit of time and a lot of stress, but I'm so pleased to have got there in the end."

Meanwhile, Jason Gardener's victory in winning Saturday's 100m race was one of the outstanding performances of the weekend.

After finishing in a time of 10.22sec, which would have been close to 10-dead had there not been a 1.2-metres-per-second headwind, he revealed how desperate he had become about the time it had taken him to recover from the double hernia operation he required after winning the world indoor 60m title in Budapest four months ago.

"The surgeon said it would take around six weeks," he said, "but I was going out after eight weeks and I just had no zest. I realised then that six weeks may have been enough for Premiership footballers but it wasn't enough for me. They can get away with being 80 per cent fit. I need to be 100 per cent.

"I was really worried. I was thinking 'Has it totally gone?' But gradually the elasticity has come back, although it's not quite right yet. I would say I was between 85 and 90 per cent today.

"It has been a real uphill struggle for me. But this is a massive win. It's my time now." It might yet also be Mark Lewis-Francis's time, although the 21-year-old still needs to find something extra if he is to fulfil the rich promise he displayed when breaking through to world-class level as an 18-year-old. At least he earned a place in his first Olympics, although there was an uncomfortably long wait before his position in third place ahead of Scotland's Nick Smith in 10.24sec, one hundredth of a second behind Darren Campbell, who made his usual point of upsetting the short sprint specialists at this meeting.

Kelly Holmes provided the 7,000 crowd filling this purpose-built stadium based on the Commonwealth Games warm-up track with an early opportunity to wave their flags as she claimed her seventh AAA title at 800m, pulling away from the challenge of world indoor bronze medallist Jo Fenn to win in 1min 59.40sec.

Steve Backley, seeking a fourth Olympic medal, was only partially pleased with winning the javelin with an effort of 81.25m. "I'm still in one piece so there are some positives to come out of it," he said. "But I did want to throw further and there was a little bit of rust still there today.

"I'm optimistic, though. The javelin is the kind of event that can change around dramatically. You can gain five or six metres just by changing one tiny thing, and I still think the Olympics are going to be won with 87 or 88 metres."