Athletics: Montgomery has a point to prove against Chambers

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The Independent Online

Tim Montgomery may be the fastest man in the world but he still has a point to prove on these shores - and he intends to do so tomorrow as he takes on Britain's leading 100 metres runners, Dwain Chambers and Mark Lewis-Francis, in the Norwich Union International at Glasgow.

The 28-year-old from South Carolina set a world record of 9.78sec last September, but before that his racing record was distinctly average as he lost eight times in all, including once in London, where he was beaten by Chambers.

"That is something I shouldn't be doing," he said this week, adding that he intended to use his run at the Scotstoun Stadium to impress his name very firmly on the British pair with the World Championships less than two months away.

The likelihood of his being able to do that was increased by the fact that he has spent the week preparing for the event on British soil, while the home runners stacked their schedule with a planned appearance at last night's IAAF Golden League meeting in Oslo.

Montgomery's own form this season has been respectable rather than remarkable. Last weekend he almost missed out on a place at the World Championships on the same Stade de France track where he set his record nine months ago. A stumble at the start of the 100m final at the US Trials left him in eighth place after 50m, and he had to use all his finishing power to secure one of the three available places behind the winner, Bernard Williams, who will run over 200m tomorrow against the British pair of Darren Campbell and Christian Malcolm.

Following Wednesday's precautionary withdrawal from the meeting by Katherine Merry, who was due to run her first individual 400m in two years, there was further concerning news for the British team yesterday. Kelly Holmes, who had been due to make her first appearance of the outdoor season at 800m, withdrew from the event because of a "slight calf strain."

Holmes is replaced by Hayley Tullet, whose second place in the European Cup 3,000m helped the British women to avoid relegation from the top division.

Merry's absence leaves the current British No 1, Scotland's Lee McConnell, to carry the battle to the Russian who beat her into second place in the European Cup at Florence last weekend, Svetlana Pospelova.

The men's 400m offers Iwan Thomas a swift opportunity to further strengthen his confidence after his performance as a late replacement for Daniel Caines in Florence, where he finished third in 45.58sec, his best time for four years.

Caines, who has recovered from the cold which prompted his withdrawal from the European Cup team, will race and so will Scotland's Ian Mackie.

Chris Rawlinson will be confident after the past week. Having won the European Cup 400m hurdles in 48.45sec, the second fastest in the world this year, he led off the British 400m relay team which won the concluding event in Florence.

He needs to maintain his momentum against a field that includes Matt Elias, and two Americans in the world's top 10, Joey Woody and Eric Thomas.

In the men's long jump, meanwhile, the British record holder, Chris Tomlinson, and Scotland's Darren Ritchie face America's world indoor champion, Dwight Phillips, who leapt 8.44m at last weekend's US Trials.

In the women's long jump, Jade Johnson faces the woman who beat her to the European title last summer, Russia's Tatyana Kotova.

Lewis-Francis keeps British rival at bay

Dwain Chambers suffered two stunning blows in Oslo yesterday. The first, bizarrely, came when he was knocked unconscious after being hit in the head by a football while warming up for the opening IAAF Golden League meeting of the season.

The second came in the meeting itself, when he was beaten by his 20-year-old British rival Mark Lewis-Francis, who crossed the line in 10.12sec, 0.03sec ahead of the European champion.

Tomorrow, both Britons face the US world record holder, Tim Montgomery, in Glasgow. But last night, in the last meeting in the Bislett Stadium before its refurbishment, there was an important local rivalry being played out, and the result left Chambers in reflective mood after a second defeat by his rival in 15 days.

"You have to take the rough with the smooth," said Chambers, who withdrew from defending his European Cup 100m title last weekend, giving Lewis-Francis the chance to win his second title.

Lewis-Francis, however, was understandably buoyant. "You can see the smile on my face and its going to stay," he said.

It was a big night too for Cuba's Yamile Aldama, who is seeking British citizenship. She won the triple jump with 15.11m, the best in the world this year.