When Tim Montgomery crossed the finish line in the Grand Prix final in Paris last year, clocking a 100 metres world record time of 9.78sec, he cocked his right hand in imitation of a gun.
At Crystal Palace last night the American fired a blank. It was his third in four days. Having followed his two sluggish runs in Stockholm on Tuesday with another embarrassing jaunt among the also-rans in the Norwich Union London Grand Prix, the man from Gaffney, South Carolina, suggested that he might not bother putting his rapidly-fading reputation on the line at the World Championships in Paris in a fortnight.
Stumbling out of his starting blocks in the second of two heats, Montgomery was unable to summon the power that pushed him to a new human speed limit in Paris. He crossed the line fifth in a wind-assisted 10.13sec, an improvement on the 10.39sec and 10.37sec he clocked in Sweden but not good enough to take him through to the final as he trailed in the high-speed wake of Kim Collins (9.97sec), Justin Gatlin (10.03), Bernard 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 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. It would be no surprise if Dwain Chambers - who cruised through his heat in second place to the Nigerian Deji Aliu, clocking 10.06sec - was to find his path to gold in Paris bereft of the 28-year-old American.
Sadly for Yamile Aldama, she will not get the chance to go for gold in the Stade de France. The Cuban-born triple jumper has established herself as the clear world No 1 in her event this year, a position she strengthened with the 15.27m UK all-comers' record she set in the final round last night. Aldama has lived in east London since November 2001, competes for Shaftesbiury Barnet Harriers and is coached by former British international triple jumper Frank Attoh. She will not qualify for a British passport until November 2004, though, unless the Home Office can be persuaded to fast-track her application.
Chris Rawlinson has a British passport and a place in the British team for Paris but, having established himself as a potential medal contender, it remains to be seen whether the Rotherham man will make it to the French capital. The 30-year-old Commonwealth champion found himself hamstrung by injury when he should have been chasing Kriss Akabusi's British record here last night. Rawlinson is nursing a torn groin muscle and joins a lengthening list of British medal hopefuls who are either struggling to overcome injury or already ruled out of the World Championship reckoning.
Happily, Carl Myerscough is approaching the championships in peak condition, the towering 6ft 10in Blackpudlian emerging victorious from the shot putt competition last night with a throw of 21.50m. It was another mightily impressive performance by the 23-year-old Lancastrian, who broke Geoff Capes' 23-year-old British record in June and stands second to American Kevin Toth in the world rankings.
The sell-out 18,500 Palace crowd were also pleased to see the venerable British athletics institution, the Emsley Carr Mile, in such rude health. The 50th anniversary race was one to savour, Paul Korir kicking to victory ahead of his Kenyan compatriots Cornelius and William Chirchir in 3min 48.17sec, the fastest time in the world this year. Tony Whiteman finished fourth in 3min 54.94sec with Tom Mayo providing further British encouragement, smashing his personal best with a time of 3:55.37 in fifth.
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