Chambers warms up for court date with easy heat win

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The Independent Online

Dwain Chambers avoided the nightmare scenario here yesterday evening, keeping his hopes of going to Beijing alive by moving safely through the opening heat of the 100 metres event on the first day of the British Olympic trials.

The former European champion, who faces a High Court hearing on Wednesday, when he will seek to suspend the British Olympic Association by-law which currently prevents all doping offenders from competing in the Games, showed no obvious sign of being under pressure as he registered the fastest time of the night, 10.14sec, in almost jaunty fashion to reach today's semi-finals.

But the evening proved more uncomfortable for Britain's world 400m silver medallist Nicola Sanders, who scratched from her opening heat after feeling a problem with her thigh while warming up.

"My left quad was slightly tight and I felt it a little more as I warmed up so if I ran today I wouldn't have been able to run tomorrow," Sanders said. "But the withdrawal was nothing major, just a precaution."

Sanders, who maintained she would be back to run in the London Grand Prix at Crystal Palace on 25 to 26 July, had her early-season preparations affected by a knee injury. Although she returned to action to win the European Cup 400m at Annecy in fine style last month, she avoided running in the relay for fear of exacerbating any problems.

At the Golden Gala in Rome the former world 100m record holder Asafa Powell, who has made a delayed entrance to this season because of a pectoral muscle injury, pulled up in his heat with a reported groin strain. Powell qualified for the final with a time of 10.19, but decided not to carry on after pulling up abruptly at the end. His manager, Paul Doyle, commented: "He'll be fine, but he's not going to take any chances in an Olympic year."

Russia's Olympic pole vault champion Yelena Isinbayeva set a world record of 5.03 metres in Rome last night. The 26-year-old cleared the bar with ease to surpass the record of 5.01 she set at the 2005 Helsinki world championships.

In Birmingham, there were almost as many camera crews as spectators when Chambers got to his marks in the first of seven first-round heats. Still, there was a loud cheer when his name was announced and he did not disappoint his supporters who had turned up for a damp evening's viewing here, blasting out of his blocks and pulling decisively clear of his five rivals.

"It was a bit tough mentally because I was the first one out there," he said. "But I've got the job done and now it's up to the others. I'm pleased with the time. It shows I'm in good shape."

The judge presiding over Chambers' case, Lord Justice Mackay, had opined in last Wednesday's hearing requested by the BOA that the sprinter would not have any problem coming through the trial taking place on the track this weekend. Chambers is now two steps away from proving him correct as he contemplates a semi-final today and a final where he needs to finish first or second to lay claim to a place in the Olympic team, for whom the selection deadline is a week tomorrow

Asked about the crowd's support, he said: "It helps. It means a lot. It makes you go out there more confident. I'm sure there were a few claps from you guys [the media] as well. If the crowd response helps to sway the judge next week, then fine. But in the end what will be will be. I'll just respect his decision and get on with my life."

On the subject of the court hearing, he said: "I can't think about that. I've just got to go out and let my legs do the talking. I've got to hold it up mentally, because there's a lot riding on it. What happens here will determine what happens next week."

Chambers insisted he has had steady support from the group of athletes with whom he has worked this year. "The ones who associate with me are fine," he said. "They've been supportive since the start of the season."

Not that Marlon Devonish, the defending champion, was keen to discuss his rival after winning the second heat, in a time of 10.38. "Oh, I'm tired of talking about it," he said.

Tyrone Edgar, second in the national rankings with a time of 10.06 – one hundredth of a second behind Chambers – won his heat without undue alarms, clocking 10.54. The 26-year-old US-based sprinter, who began to make a name for himself in Britain by winning the 100m in Annecy last month, had been concerned about a back injury he sustained when he bumped into a shot-putter while warming up for the recent meeting at Lille, but he managed to get through his race without obvious discomfort.

There were no casualties among the obvious contenders for tomorrow's important places. Chambers was easily the fastest on a night when Simeon Williamson won in 10.31, Christian Malcolm in 10.43, Harry Aikines-Aryeetey in 10.38, and Craig Pickering in 10.33.

Pickering was one of almost 100 British athletes who signed an on-line petition supporting the BOA's by-law. There was a neutral reaction between the him and Chambers when they saw each other last night. "We just walked past each other," Chambers said.

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