Ohuruogu campaign to retain world title begins

400m champion set for first race over her favoured distance this season
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The Independent Online

The Olympic 400 metre champion Christine Ohuruogu contests her first race over the distance this year at an international meeting in Montreuil today.

Ohuruogu has again this summer followed a racing programme built around speed before moving up to her speciality distance, which proved a winning strategy before her brilliant Games victory in Beijing last year.

Now the 25-year-old Londoner, who ran an impressive 200m personal best of 23.85 seconds in Hengelo on 1 June, has her eyes firmly fixed on defending her world title in August.

Almost exactly 12 months ago in Ostrava, Ohuruogu opened her 2008 season by clocking 51.06sec, and the athlete and coach Lloyd Cowan will gauge what fine-tuning needs to be done before Berlin after her outing at the French venue today.

Dwain Chambers, who tops this year's European rankings for 100m with the time of 10.06sec he set in Kalamata at the end of May, will be competing over the distance in his build-up to the worlds.

Chambers may be banned by the Euromeetings consortium, who recommend to their members not to invite former drug cheats, but he is still finding himself welcome at several other meetings on the continent.

The 31-year-old, who tested positive for the steroid THG in August 2003 and served a two-year suspension, has races confirmed for Uden on 27 June and Marseilles a week later.

Chambers believes those three meetings will offer him excellent preparation before he competes at the Aviva World Championship trials in Birmingham on the weekend of 12-14 July.

The reformed drug cheat is also hoping he will be included in the Aviva GB team for the European Team Championships on 20-21 June, which is due to be announced later this week.

British 800m champion Michael Rimmer, an Olympic semi-finalist, also competes along with 110m hurdler Andy Turner, who has made one of his best ever starts to a season.

Meanwhile, triple Olympic gold medallist Usain Bolt will compete in his first track race since recovering from a car accident, at the Festival of Excellence meeting in Toronto tomorrow. Given his recent form, the 22-year-old is expected to go top of this year's IAAF world track rankings over 100me – replacing Mike Rodgers, who clocked 9.94sec in Eugene last Sunday – if conditions are favourable.

Bolt posted a slightly wind-assisted time of 9.93sec in Spanish Town in mid-March but had his training schedule curtailed for a couple of weeks after being involved in a car crash on 29 April.

The accident forced him to miss the Kingston International meeting on 2 May but he returned to action in tremendous style in a street race at the Bupa Great Manchester Games a fortnight later.

With a stunning performance on a cold and wet evening, Bolt roared to a world 150m best performance of 14.35sec. Despite slipping at the start, the Jamaican passed through 100m in a blistering 9.91sec.

Bolt is now determined to better that display with an even quicker mark in a race where American's Shawn Crawford and Bernard Williams are expected to be his main rivals.

Meanwhile, his manager Ricky Simms has denied reports the Olympic 100m, 200m and 4x100m gold medallist is being lined up for another street race in Berlin. Gerhard Janetzky, organiser of the opening IAAF Golden League meeting there on Sunday, wants Bolt to compete in the German capital at the end of the summer track season. But Simms said: "It's news to me. There have been no approaches from anyone for him to do so. For the moment Usain is focused on Toronto."