Williamson is ready to move into the spotlight

After leaving Chambers behind Great British hope has Bolt and Gay in his sights
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Simeon Williamson has yet to truly make a name for himself, it would seem.

That much was clear in midweek when Tyson Gay was running through a list of sprinters other than Usain Bolt that he has on his mind as he prepares for the defence of his World Championship 100 metres title in Berlin next month. "There's young Mike Rodgers, Richard Thompson, Asafa Powell," the American speed merchant said. There was no mention of the Highgate Harrier who left Dwain Chambers trailing in his wake at the UK Championships in Birmingham last weekend.

"Simeon Williamson: does that name mean anything?" he was asked. "Who?" Gay responded, speaking down the line from his Munich training base. The name was put to him again. "Who's that?" he enquired, patently still at a loss.

It was no deliberate slight. Gay is not into the kind of egotistical posturing that riddled the sprinting world before the advent of grounded, respectful souls such as himself, Powell and, for all his showboating, Bolt. "Ooh, I haven't watched the UK Championships," Gay hastily added, lest he cause offence. "That's why I haven't looked him up."

Neither had the Sky Sports News presenter late on Friday night, evidently. Commenting on Bolt's 9.79sec 100m win in the rain at the Paris Golden League meeting, he added: "and Britain's Shaun Williamson finished sixth in 10.14sec." That would have been some feat for the real Shaun Williamson, better known as Barry from EastEnders as well as himself from Ricky Gervais's Extras. It crossed the mind that the presenter might just be "having a laugh," to quote the star turn of the latter show.

Williamson – Simeon Williamson – is such a self-effacing soul he would doubtless chuckle at the thought of still being considered as some kind of anonymous extra on the world sprinting stage. Indeed, while some of us were trumpeting his Birmingham win as a career-defining breakthrough, the 23-year-old North Ender, an Enfield resident, was rather more restrained. "It was slower than my personal best, so it's not a breakthrough as such," he said.

Williamson has become accustomed to life in the shadows, with the media spotlight trained on Chambers. "I don't like to get involved in the hype and stuff," he said "I prefer to stay away from it and concentrate on what I'm doing."

And what Williamson is in the process of doing – under the guidance of Lloyd Cowan, the coach who inspired Christine Ohuruogu to Olympic 400m gold last summer – is providing Britain with a world-class 100m man. His personal best might remain the 10.03sec he clocked as a close runner-up to Chambers at the Olympic trials last year but his turning of the tables on the erstwhile British and European No 1 in Birmingham last weekend suggests he is on the cusp of crossing the global sprint game's traditional Rubicon.

Williamson's winning time into a 1.8m-per-second headwind, 10.05sec, equates to something around 9.90sec in windless conditions. In the wind and rain at the Stade de France on Friday, the former European Under-23 champion never got into his stride, clocking 10.14sec behind Bolt (9.79), the Antiguan Daniel Bailey (9.91), Yohan Blake of Jamaica (9.93), the Trinidadian Richard Thompson (10.09) and Ivory Williams of the US (10.07).

It was no great surprise, though, that the new Great British hope failed to break the 10-second barrier on that particular sprint strip. For one thing, the Parisian track has never been sprinter-friendly; no one managed to dip under 10 seconds when the World Championships were held there in 2003.

For another, Williamson, by his own admission, has yet to master the art of running quick in one-off races. "I'm a rounds person," he said. "I'm not really that good at one-off races."

In Birmingham he had three rounds in which to crank himself into gear. And there will be two rounds of the 100m when Williamson runs against Bolt and Powell on the opening day of the Aviva London Grand Prix at Crystal Palace next Friday. "There's a heat and final there," he said, looking ahead to his next high-speed engagement, in his home town. "There'll be high quality competition in front of a British crowd, so hopefully I can run sub-10 there.

"But if it doesn't come before the World Championships I won't feel too disappointed. I definitely think I've got it in me. Lloyd's quoted a time to me that he thinks I'm capable of running this year. I won't say what it is, but if I run it I'll be very happy. It's below 10 seconds."

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