Lemaitre wins 100m title as Lewis-Francis claims shock silver

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The Independent Online

Mark Lewis-Francis tonight upstaged team-mate Dwain Chambers to claim a shock silver medal in the 100 metres at the European Championships in Barcelona.

Chambers had been expected to battle with France's Christophe Lemaitre for gold, but while the young Frenchman duly took the title in a slow time of 10.11 seconds, Chambers was run out of the medals entirely.

In a blanket finish, Lewis-Francis took second in 10.18secs, with the next three athletes also given the same time.

France's Martial Mbandjock claimed bronze ahead of defending champion Francis Obikwelu of Portugal, with Chambers relegated to fifth.

Lewis-Francis was hailed as the future of British sprinting when he won the world junior title in 2000, and anchored the British 4x100m relay team to a surprise gold medal at the Athens Olympics in 2004.



But the 27-year-old has struggled with injuries in recent seasons, missing the entire 2008 campaign with a torn Achilles tendon, and lost his lottery funding at the end of last year.



"For me to come here and finish second when I was told I wouldn't make the final, I am so happy," Lewis-Francis said. "For all the knocks I have taken this is the biggest comeback ever and the biggest boost.



"It is a new beginning, this is the rebuilding of Mark Lewis-Francis. I hope I have answered some of the critics."



Watched by coach Linford Christie in the stadium where Christie won Olympic gold in 1992, Lewis-Francis added: "Linford was my inspiration from when I was a kid. To be coached by him is an honour, he motivated me all the way through my races."



Chambers, who won the European title in 2002 but had to hand back his gold medal when he tested positive for steroids a year later, said: "I was just glad to be a part of it. It's been a struggle to get here, you can't win them all and I did the best I could.



"Of course I mind (missing a medal). I am disappointed but I got myself here. Life goes on and I am confident I should get a few more races this year.



"The main thing is Mark did well and he has battled really well to get back. It's unlucky for me but I enjoyed it and it's good to compete on the European stage."



Martyn Rooney earlier advanced to the final of the 400 metres, but only as a fastest loser following an error-strewn display.



Rooney could only finish third in the first semi-final and, with two qualifying automatically, had to wait to see if he would suffer a shock exit.



Thankfully for the 23-year-old Londoner, the pace set by Belgium's Jonathan Borlee ensured he made it through, but he admitted: "I made mistakes. I slowed down at 200m for some stupid reason and kicked too early.



"I made silly mistakes, if I'd run the race properly I would have been comfortable but I didn't. You can't make those mistakes in the final or you will be punished."



The former Olympic finalist already has been, his poor performance seeing him handed the tight lane one for the final, hardly ideal for a man of 6ft 5in.



Borlee remains favourite for gold after setting a new national record and fastest time in Europe this year of 44.71 seconds, with France's Leslie Djhone second in 44.87secs and Rooney clocking 45.00s.



Team-mate Michael Bingham was more assured in finishing second in his semi-final, the 24-year-old clocking a season's best of 44.88 as he was just overtaken on the line by Ireland's David Gillick (44.79). Conrad Williams bowed out as he could only finish sixth in the third semi-final in 46.60.



Perri Shakes-Drayton and Eilidh Child, first and second respectively in the European Under-23 Championships in Lithuania last year, also qualified for the final of the 400m hurdles.



Shakes-Drayton, who lives minutes away from the Olympic Stadium in London, set a new personal best of 54.73 when finishing third in her semi-final, while Child survived a bad stutter at the final hurdle to qualify as a fastest loser in 55.27.



"I'm very happy," Shakes-Drayton said. "It's two days and then the final, let's see what I can do there."



Child added: "I mucked up my last hurdle in the heat so I was really thinking about that. I got eight okay but nine and 10 I stuttered again."



The British trio of Andy Baddeley, Colin McCourt and Tom Lancashire all qualified easily for Friday's 1500m final.



Baddeley is the fastest in Europe this year and, when asked about his goals for the final, said: "The gold medal. It's not talking a good game, it's just what I am aiming for."

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