Dean Macey, who shed tears of joy after earning a long-awaited decathlon gold medal at the Commonwealth Games five months ago, shed tears of frustration yesterday on the eve of the European Championships here.
Macey's preparations had been going beautifully until his final training session back home, when he injured his groin doing the hurdles. Thus - as so often before - one of Britain's most outrageously talented athletes has shown that when it comes to major championships, he is also outrageously unlucky.
If anybody can manage themselves back into some kind of shape in these circumstances it is Macey, who has won world silver and bronze medals, and twice placed fourth in the Olympics while carrying sufficient injury to halt most mortals. But even the naturally ebullient Canvey Islander was sounding dubious yesterday about a competition that gets under way on Thursday.
"If there is a chance that I can get out there and be dangerous, I will be on that start line," he said. "I didn't fly out here just for the trip. If I'm on that line then there's no excuses for me not to get a medal."
Macey's Commonwealth Games total of 8,143 points leaves him only eighth in the European rankings headed by Romain Barras, of France, with 8,416, and also containing the world record holder, Roman Sebrle.
Macey admitted that Sebrle appeared beyond challenge but he added: "If he cocks an event up I will be ready to pick up the pieces. I'm the best of the rest and if I start I expect to win a medal."
There was more cheering news of some of Britain's other damaged contenders, however. Kelly Sotherton, who won the Commonwealth heptathlon title in Melbourne, announced that she had recovered from the back injury she suffered last week. "I wouldn't be on the start line if I didn't think I would be in contention," Sotherton said. "I've had a dodgy week but I feel quite confident. We'll see how it goes when we get to the javelin. " Given that Sotherton managed to win her Commonwealth title despite virtually tipping the javelin into the ground at her feet, a decent effort here should see her on to the rostrum in an event that starts today.
Tim Benjamin, whose Commonwealth hopes were ruined by a hip injury, believes he has put himself into a challenging position in the 400m after a protracted struggle for fitness. "I'm here injury-free and I'm looking forward to it," said the man who consistently ran under 45 seconds last season. Anything similar could be enough for him to win in Sweden.
Dwain Chambers, whose 100m gold of four years ago was stripped from him following his doping suspension, intends to run in today's opening heats and see how the thigh injury which forced him out of the trials responds.
Meanwhile Lamine Diack, the president of the International Association of Athletics Federations, has called for a return to four-year doping bans rather than the current punishment of two years.
"We cannot accept any doubt about the performances of our athletes," Diack said. On the eve of the world championships that were held here 11 years ago, Britain's professor Peter Radford swayed IAAF delegates to reject a move to reduce the four-year ban by two years. But subsequent legal actions over restraint of trade ultimately broke down the IAAF stance.
Linford Christie, present here as a newly appointed mentor for UK Athletics, has had his position questioned by the former world mile record holder, Steve Cram. Cram, commentating here for the BBC, has raised the issue of Christie's ineligibility for involvement in future Olympics following his doping ban.
"It begs the question - if he does end up with some strong relationship with our sprinters, then what is the point if somewhere in the future, particularly 2008, he isn't going to be able to be involved?" Cram said. "It's a difficult one in terms of a moral stance on drugs."