Having been born in April 1978, Dwain Chambers has no memory of the day when John F Kennedy was shot in Dallas or when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. He has a perfect recall, however, of Usain Bolt breaking the world 100m record on 16 August 2009. He had a close-up view of the Lightning Bolt disappearing into the distance in Berlin's World Championships final.
"I remember it with clarity," the veteran British speed merchant said yesterday as he prepared for another meeting with Bolt, at the 2011 World Championships, which open on Saturday in Daegu, South Korea. "I laughed when I saw the time on the clock: 9.58sec. When Bolt had finished I was still running. The other athletes just stood there and laughed in disbelief. Afterwards, we were happy just to have been in the final and been part of history."
Two years on, the aim for the 33-year-old Chambers is to make it through to Sunday's final and repeat or better the sixth-placed finish he achieved in Berlin. With Bolt lying joint sixth in the world rankings with a season's best of 9.88sec, Chambers does not expect another historic world record-breaking occasion. Nor, however, does he expect the jolt of what would still be a shock defeat for the Lightning Bolt.
"Usain has shown this season that he is a human being," Chambers said, speaking from the British team holding camp in rain-sodden Ulsan. "This guy has been dominant in ways that were unmanageable to us as athletes, but the fact that he has not been on top form does not put any doubts in my mind. He's still the No 1 contender. He's run 9.58sec and 9.69sec.
"He's going to have tough competition from Yohan Blake, Asafa Powell, Christophe Lemaitre, and I'm not going to discount myself and Marlon Devonish and Harry Aikines-Aryeetey. Every man has his day."
Bolt had his birthday on Sunday and the 25-year-old told the world, and the rest of his rivals, that he was confident of retaining his 100m crown, provided he got a good start. "When I get into my running stride I don't think anybody can match it, no matter my shape," the Jamaican said.
In Chambers' opinion, Bolt is still capable of bettering 9.58sec, but that after two years of the Jamaican being hampered by injury, it may well take until the Olympics next year to start getting the freakish best out of him again. "Usain has talked in the past about improving his world record and when he has said it he has done it," Chambers said. "I believe that record will go – but only to one man. I would like to see that happen. London would be the perfect opportunity for that."
As the various rule books stand, London 2012 is one opportunity that will not be open to Chambers. Thanks to the two-year ban he served after testing positive for a sickly cocktail of banned substances back in 2003, the Belgrave Harrier is subject to the British Olympic Association by-law which precludes past drug offenders from Olympic selection for life. That, however, could possibly be challenged in the courts, if the Court of Arbitration for Sport revokes the International Olympic Association rule that bars returning drug offenders from the Olympic Games which follows the end of their suspension. A definitive ruling on that matter is expected next month.
Asked if he regarded the World Championships as "his Olympics", Chambers replied: "No, it's not. I would not want to look that far ahead. This is 2011 and all I can do is concentrate on this opportunity. I am not looking at it as the last or as the one and only.
"Now that I'm in my thirties I cherish these opportunities more. Being a father of three now, I have to do all I can to make my family proud."
Chambers faces one returning drug offender in the 100m in Daegu: Justin Gatlin, the 2004 Olympic champion and former 100m world record holder. The championships will feature the ground-breaking introduction of blood tests for all athletes, although the recent positive tests given by another American, Mike Rodgers, and by Jamaican Steve Mullings – both highly ranked 100m men – suggests that the sprinting fraternity is not learning lessons from the mistakes made by Chambers and others.
"For my part, I welcome more frequent and more rigorous testing in championships and in the off-season," Chambers said. "I know I have definitely learnt my lesson and I hoped that a lot more athletes would too. I can only concentrate on myself as a clean athlete. I welcome the blood tests and think it's a good introduction to the sport. It levels the playing fields and I think that benefits all athletes."