Chambers shrugs off pressure as Olympic hopefuls go on trial

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The Independent Online

Dwain Chambers will arguably be under more pressure than any other athlete at the Olympic trials which start in Birmingham tonight, given that he has to finish either first or second in the 100 metres to justify the court hearing next Wednesday when he will seek to have his current Olympic ban suspended.

But the 30-year-old sprinter insisted yesterday that it is his younger opponents who will feel the pressure in the Alexander Stadium, just as he once did as a promising athlete making his way on the circuit.

Not for the first time it will be the 100m which provides the main competitive intensity at an annual trial, with at least six top-class operators contesting the three individual places for Beijing. But Chambers, who maintains he is putting all thought of his impending High Court action to the back of his mind, plans to replicate his overwhelming performance at the world indoor trials in February.

On that occasion Chambers' strutting confidence seemed to put off a number of his rivals, most obviously the 21-year-old European indoor silver medallist Craig Pickering. The Bath athlete, it transpired, was suffering from a virus and stomach upset, but the man who has returned to the sport on three occasions since serving a two-year doping ban nevertheless created a huge sense of his presence.

"That's what it's all about," Chambers said. "What he went through, having to deal with the likes of myself, is what I had to go through myself in the days of Maurice Greene and other athletes. It's part and parcel of being an athlete dealing with pressure."

While Chambers tops the domestic rankings with the time of 10.05sec he set last week in Sofia, he is only 0.01sec ahead of Tyrone Edgar, the 26-year-old who won at last month's European Cup in Annecy.

Five years ago Edgar, who was born in Greenwich, left his job in a sports centre, took up an athletics scholarship at a Kansas junior college and moved to Texas A&M University the following year. The motivation, he said yesterday, was straightforward: "I wanted to test myself against the fastest sprinters, and they were in the States. Edgar believes the experience will make him impervious to any psychological manoeuvres Chambers might be planning to carry out.

"I'm not bothered," he said. "Dwain is just another athlete who's trying to make the Olympics. He has served his time. All I need to focus on is finishing in the top two to get to Beijing."

Four others have a realistic Olympic chance – Pickering, the European Under-23 champion Simeon Williamson, 2004 sprint relay gold medallist Marlon Devonish and double world junior champion Harry Aikines-Aryeetey.

The European Cup winner Martyn Rooney's chances of dominating the 400m were improved by yesterday's news that Tim Benjamin will miss the Olympic season to recover from a debilitating sinus infection.

Paula Radcliffe was reported to have returned to running as she seeks to recover from a stress fracture. She is likely to make a final decision about her fitness within the next fortnight.

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