Tim Montgomery, the world 100m champion, last night provided Britain's three leading sprinters at the World Championships with an ominous warning that he is in shape to claim his first global title as he moved through to today's semi-finals in a time of 10.04sec.
That is by far the best performance of the season for a man whose form has been undermined by a combination of factors, including the birth of his son Tim junior by his partner Marion Jones, and an apparent allergic reaction to peanuts which he only discovered last week.
Montgomery, who set a new mark of 9.78 here last September, looked like a different runner to the one who struggled earlier this month in Stockholm and then Crystal Palace.
All three British contenders progressed safely on a night disrupted by the extravagant protests of Jon Drummond against disqualification. Darren Campbell took second place in the third heat in 10.14, with Mark Lewis-Francis claiming the fourth qualifying place in 10.18. Dwain Chambers also qualified smoothly, finishing second to the Commonwealth champion, Kim Collins, 10.03 to 10.02, on a night which confirmed that today's final could be one of the most open in the Championship's history.
Trinidad's Darrel Brown was the fastest qualifier with 10.01, a world junior record, but the defending champion, Maurice Greene, despite finishing a place behind Chambers in 10.04, appeared to have problems as he limped away to the mixed zone.
The men's 10,000m final confirmed the shift in power within middle distance running, which had been prefigured in the Hengelo meeting earlier this season, as Ethiopia's master of recent years, the 30-year-old double Olympic champion, Haile Gebrselassie, was outsprinted by his 21-year-old compatriot Kenenisa Bekele. The younger man, already a double world cross-country champion, won in 26min 49.57sec, the sixth fastest time in history, with Gebrselassie clocking 26:50.77 before embracing his fellow countryman - and a new era.
"My sprinting is still there," Gebrselassie said with his characteristic good humour. "But not enough to beat Kenenisa."
The women's 100m title was won by Kelli White, of the United States, in 10.85. Among the most interested spectators was the former champion Jones, commentating here for a television company and planning a return to the track at Brussels on 5 September.
There was disappointment for the home crowd, however, as their big hope, Christine Arron could only manage sixth place in a race where Torri Edwards made it an American one-two. The defending champion, Zhanna Block, took the bronze medal.
"Even now after the victory lap I can't believe I'm the world champion," said White, who has recovered her career after being slashed across the face and throat in a motiveless knife attack in a parking lot six years ago.
Kelly Holmes, who made a late decision to run in the 800m here rather than the 1500m, reached tomorrow's final a couple of steps behind her friend and training partner Maria Mutola. In a display of unofficial team running to rival the Kenyans or Ethiopians, both women made their break around the final bend and exchanged information down the home straight. Mutola won in 1:58.45, with Holmes recording a season's best of 1:58.86.
Jo Fenn, returning after a stress fracture, could progress no further despite finishing third in her semi-final in a season's best. Daniel Caines suffered the same fate in his 400m semi-final, being eliminated despite recording a time of 45.29.