The quest to find Britain’s fastest man will have to wait until another day. A year ago, James Dasaolu lay claim to that accolade with a blistering run of 9.91 seconds in the 100 metres at the British Championships. He has not quite been the same athlete since and last ran at the Birmingham Grand Prix indoors, where he ended up being taken away in a wheelchair with a hamstring injury.
Birmingham and this year’s British Championships had been scheduled as the scene of his comeback but Dasaolu, who has been given special dispensation to miss the event, which doubles as the European Championship trials and gets under way on Friday night, said: “The trials have just come a week too early for me.”
That means Dasaolu has two races, the Diamond League race in Lausanne next Thursday and the Glasgow Grand Prix in a fortnight’s time, to prove he warrants selection. “The best opportunity I have to achieve the standard is at those two races and I am really grateful the team supporting me are helping us make these decisions,” he said.
Also missing from Sunday’s 100m line-up is Adam Gemili, who is focusing solely on the 200m for the Europeans. It leaves Chijindu Ujah, the fifth-fastest man in the world this year with his run of 9.96sec, as the man to watch, while Dwain Chambers tries to win a fifth straight national sprint crown.
Despite being Britain’s third-fastest man of all time behind Linford Christie and Dasaolu, Ujah said: “I don’t feel the pressure because I don’t allow the pressure to get to me. My main threat is the clock. There are a lot of guys in the mix but I can’t control what they do, I can only control myself.”
There are not quite the same injury issues for the women sprinters. Five have run 11.23sec or quicker this season, notable among them Jodie Williams, who, like Dasaolu, was billed as the next big thing when enjoying a winning streak of 151 races as a teenager, before a torrid time with injuries. But a personal best of 22.76sec in the 200m and clocking 11.20sec, four-tenths off her best for 100m, both in Florida in April intimate she is getting back to her best and she will contest both distances this weekend.
“This feels like my first real senior year and I’m just trying to build my confidence back,” Williams said, while admitting in some way the injuries may have helped. “It took off the pressure. I noticed a difference with how people see me. In the junior ranks, I had the pressure on me all the time. Maybe these injuries have done me a favour. It allowed me to focus on training hard and getting things sorted.”
Watch British’s best athletes go head to head at the Sainsbury’s British Championships at the Alexander Stadium from today until Sunday. Tickets via britishathletics.org.uk