The battle for supremacy in world sprinting begins in earnest at the Stade de la Pontaise in Lausanne tonight as the leading contenders – including the world record holder Maurice Greene and Britain's world bronze medallist Dwain Chambers – converge for the first time with exactly a month to go until the World Championship final.
The most pressing question of the night is likely to be the fitness, or otherwise, of Greene, who turned up for last Friday's Golden Gala in Rome with strapping on his left knee and limped away after his victory.
But Greene, who was still able to produce a time of 10.01sec in damp conditions, played down the injury yesterday. "I don't believe the knee is slowing me," he said. "But I don't think I'm at the top of my form. I'm seeking perfection and I'll be doing my best to run a perfect race here."
If the American is running below his normal standard, now would be an ideal time for Chambers to put down a marker that he intends to challenge Greene for his title in Edmonton.
The 23-year-old Londoner was a dejected figure after finishing second to Jon Drummond in Sunday's Norwich Union Challenge in Glasgow. But his coach, Mike McFarlane, yesterday denied that the loss was significant, pointing to the way Chambers recovered after a sluggish getaway.
"Dwain didn't start well, and yet he was still able to run 10.13," McFarlane said. "You have to remember it was only his first race in 10 days after missing the European Cup with a back problem and tight hamstring. He's running 10.1sec at the drop of a hat now, and he's already run 10.01 this season, so he's getting himself to a consistent level. I would like to think he's capable of going under 10 seconds again in Lausanne if everyone is up for it and the weather is good.'
The forecast for this evening in the Swiss venue is good – temperatures are expected to remain around 25C by the time the sprinters take to the track at around 9pm local time. And Lausanne is a fast track, as Greene pointed out yesterday. "I've always run fast times here," he said, recalling his best in the Stade de la Pontaise of 9.90sec in 1997, 0.11sec outside his world record. "Of course I'll try to break my record – I try to break the record every time I'm in the starting blocks."
It was on this track that Leroy Burrell brought the world record down to 9.85 in 1994, and only two years ago Ato Boldon, who also runs here, produced a time of 9.86.
Chambers will not be alone in his ambitions of challenging the man who reigns supreme in the event. As well as Boldon, the Olympic silver medallist, the field also includes Olympic bronze medallist Obadele Thompson, and the Americans Bernard Williams – who like Greene and Boldon has already gone under 10 seconds this season – and Tim Montgomery, who won the US title recently in Greene's absence.
Elsewhere in a meeting that will be watched by the IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch and his guests Cathy Freeman and Michael Johnson, Britain's world indoor 200m silver medallist Christian Malcolm races the longer sprint, while Olympic champions Jan Zelezny and Noah Ngeny measure their prospects for world titles in the javelin and 1500m respectively.Reuse content