He is not quite as quick as a John Isner serve – some 120 miles an hour slower in fact – but he gets to the winning line in an nth of the time it takes the American racket-slugger. Dwain Chambers made it from the starting blocks to the finish in the 100 metres final at the Aviva European Trials and UK Championships yesterday in 10.14sec. Not quite the momentous blast the crowd at the Alexander Stadium had been hoping for, but emphatically impressive nonetheless.
Having reacquainted himself with sub-10sec territory at the European Team Championships in Bergen last weekend, Chambers himself was not without hope of becoming the first British sprinter to break that mark on home ground without excessive wind assistance. But in Norway he had the burgeoning young French flyer Chris-tophe Lemaître pushing him all the way to 9.99sec. In Birmingham yesterday James Dasaolu could only match strides with Chambers for 40 metres. There was also a headwind of 0.6m a second to contend with.
Still, Chambers emerged a decisive winner, crossing the line with Dasaolu second in 10.23 and Marlon Devonish third in 10.34. "It wasn't the time that I wanted or that everybody else expected," Chambers said, "but the main thing was I won and qualified for [the European Championships in] Barcelona."
It was a victory for the big Belgrave Harrier to savour. Twelve months ago he trailed in a distant second behind Simeon Williamson, suffering his first defeat to a fellow British 100m man since 2006. The year before that he prevailed in what doubled as the Olympic Trials in 10.00sec, but then lost his High Court challenge to the British Olympic Association bye-law which bars past doping offenders from selection for the Games.
At 32, Chambers has put his tainted past behind him, content with his lot of challenging for non-Olympic titles. Three months ago he claimed his first global crown, winning the 60m at the World Indoor Championships in Doha, and he will head for Barcelona next month as the favourite for the 100m.
Like Chambers, Jenny Meadows was a medal winner in Doha, but the 800m runner will not be getting on the rostrum in Birmingham. The Wigan Harrier won her heat yesterday in 2min 05.31sec but then withdrew from today's final because of a calf problem. "It's not an injury but a niggle," Meadows said. "I feel confident that I will be in top shape for the European Championships."
At least Meadows has some world-class form in the bag this summer. Lisa Dobriskey has been dogged by a back injury all year, and the World Championships silver medallist's lack of racing fitness was clear to see in a 1500m final that did not get started in earnest until the sound of the bell. She could only finish third in 4min 34.29sec, behind Hannah England of Oxford City and Coventry's Celia Taylor .
England's winning time was a pedestrian 4:33.23, but with 4:05.53 to her name this summer the Birmingham-based athlete who missed out on selection for the Olympics in 2008 and the World Championships last year, is guaranteed a place for Barcelona. "The last couple of years I have been sitting in the corridor at the trials crying my eyes out and I was so scared that it was going to happen again," she said. "I'm so happy maybe I'll cry down the corridor anyway."
So, a victory for England, and one for Rooney too. There was a blast from a lone vuvuzela as Martyn Rooney coasted to a comfortable win in heat two of the men's 400m. The Croydon Harrier starts favourite for the final, which kicks off at 5.39pm today. We can only hope there will be another Rooney already celebrating at some other point on Planet Sport.