Campbell struggles to secure European Cup place

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The Independent Online

Three world-class 200 metres runners will learn this week which of them has earned the place for Britain's European Cup team.

Darren Campbell, the Olympic silver medallist, is hoping to have recovered sufficiently from a stiff hamstring to race in Helsinki tomorrow night against the man who finished three places behind him in Sydney last September, the European indoor champion Christian Malcolm. But such is Britain's strength in depth that the winner will not be certain of representing his country at this year's event in Bremen the weekend after next, as Marlon Devonish, who has already recorded 20.40sec this season, is waiting in the wings.

It is one of the few problems facing the national coach, Max Jones, as he plans Britain's defence of the trophy they won against the odds at Gateshead last year, a victory that was all the more notable for the number of drop-outs the team suffered in the run-up to competition. Eight first choices became unavailable, including the triple jumper Jonathan Edwards, who chose not to appear at his home track.

"Last year was pretty drastic in terms of drop-outs," Jones said. "But we still won, and you have to bear that in mind. If the team sticks, it's a very strong one ­ stronger than last year. It will be a huge job to take on the Germans on home ground, but this team is capable of doing that. The women's team is also strong, and certainly capable of finishing third. That's our aim at the moment."

The shorter men's sprinting selection involved less discussion ­ Dwain Chambers was the natural choice for the 100 metres following his time of 10.01sec in Seville on Friday night. "I felt really comfortable running that time," he said. "I don't think I will have any problem running 10.00's or 9.99's three of four times this season before the World Championships."

Chambers' next outing will be in Nuremburg on Sunday, when Katharine Merry, who set a new personal best of 49.59sec in Athens on Monday night, will also be appearing. Merry is selected for the 200m in Bremen, which allows Britain to call upon the athlete who finished in fourth place behind her at the Olympics, Donna Fraser, for the 400 metres run.

Chambers intends to throttle back a little after starting the season in such excellent form ­ Seville was only his second race of 2001. It is a very different story to his experience last year, when a hamstring injury put his Olympic season in jeopardy. "It was very hard to deal with running 10.3 or 10.4 in the early races," he said. "I haven't run those sort of times since I was a junior. But last year showed me that I can rise to the big occasion."

The women's 100 metres choice caused the greatest amount of debate as the selectors went for the relative experience of Sarah Wilhelmy ahead of Abi Oyepitan, who ran the fourth fastest 100m of all time earlier this season, albeit wind-assisted.

Paula Radcliffe, relatively fresh from her victory over 10km over the roads of New York, goes in the 5,000m.