Athletics: Triumph after trials for Chambers

World Championship trials: Lewis-Francis left trailing in the 100m as rankled Rawlinson is granted a reprieve
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The Independent Online

It took 10.08sec for the Norwich Union World Trials and AAA Championships to ease its acute case of withdrawal symptoms at the Alexander Stadium last night. After two days of no-shows, training-track mishaps and a hurdling row, Dwain Chambers administered the medicine for British athletics with a 100m run that had the glint of golden promise for the World Championships, which opens in Paris in a month's time.

Like the rest of the world's elite speed merchants, Chambers has been struggling to get himself into gear this season. His Ukrainian coach, Remi Korchemy, always maintained he would be starting to motor by the time of the AAA Championships and the powerful Belgrave Harrier duly purred to an impressive victory. His time, into drizzle and a 1.6 metre-per-second headwind, equated to a sub-10sec run in more favourable conditions and only two men have broken that barrier so far this summer: Patrick Johnson of Australia and Maurice Greene, the reigning world and Olympic champion from the United States.

It was Chambers' third win of the summer, following victories in Glasgow and Gateshead, and his third victory against his principal domestic rival, Mark Lewis-Francis. As it happened, Darren Campbell emerged as his closest challenger yesterday, taking second place in 10.19sec.

Lewis-Francis paid for coasting to the line behind Chambers in their semi-final, his slow time earning him a starting place for the final in the unfavoured and isolated first lane. After crossing the line third in 10.25sec, the 20-year-old Birchfield Harrier left his home track without passing comment and he was having treatment for a sore hamstring when the medal ceremony took place. He is, however, certain to be granted the discretionary third place in the 100m when the British team for Paris is announced on Tuesday.

Chambers, unsurprisingly, was in a more mellow frame of mind. "I'm like a fine wine, maturing with age, and I'm going home to drink a bottle," he said. With today's 200m in mind, and a rematch with Campbell, a glass would have been more advisable. At least the 25-year-old Belgrave Harrier left in a mood of contentment, after a beguiling few months in which he twisted an ankle on an escalator in San Fransisco, got knocked out by a football on the eve of the Bislett Games in Oslo and finished last in the Golden League in Paris.

Chambers has yet to win on foreign soil this summer but on yesterday's evidence he is rounding into the shape that took him to the European title and the European record last year. "I've had a lot more losses than wins but it doesn't really bother me," he said. "I have to take a few punches to land a good one that's going to win me the title fight."

The AAA Championships, first held in 1868, took more than a few punches yesterday leading up to the 100m bout at the end of the second day's programme. First Lee McConnell came to grief on the warm-up track, suffering what she described as slight hamstring damage, while preparing for the final of the women's 400m. In doing so, the Commonwealth silver medallist followed in the faltering foosteps of Natasha Danvers, who tore fibres in the arch of her right foot limbering up for the heats of the 400m hurdles on Friday night. Then, just when it seemed things could get no worse, the heats of the men's 400m hurdles turned into something of a hokey-cokey affair.

First Chris Rawlinson was in. Then he was out. And all because he had shaken it all about at the seventh flight. The Commonwealth champion cantered to victory, clocking 50.32sec, but was initially disqualified for trailing his leg around the hurdle rather than clearing it. It was the second time in 13 months that the Rotherham athlete had been penalised for failing to get his leg over, as it were. Unlike last year, though, when he was disqualified in the heats of the Commonwealth Games trials in Manchester, the former lifeguard was reinstated on appeal.

Still, Rawlinson was far from happy, threatening to withdraw from this afternoon's final. "As one of the only so-called name athletes here, it really makes you wonder if you should stay at home and watch it on television," he said. "It's really annoying. I've come and put my neck on the line and they've done this to me again. They should have looked at the video before the disqualified me. It's an absolute joke."

Considering he stands third in his event in the world rankings this year (as Danvers does in the women's 400m hurdles), Rawlinson can afford to put his feet up today, secure in the knowledge that he will still be selected for the World Championships. The truth is the organisers have reason to be grateful for his presence at the three-day championships, given that the list of missing athletes reads like a who's who of the British team.

The roll includes Paula Radcliffe, Ashia Hansen, Jonathan Edwards, Steve Backley, Nathan Morgan, Chris Tomlinson, Kelly Holmes, Jo Pavey and Helen Clitheroe. All have minor injuries and ailments, with the exception of Edwards, who as a reigning world champion has an automatic entry for Paris. Like McConnell and Danvers, though, most are expected to be fit to compete in the French capital.

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