Chambers withdrawal opens door to teenager

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The Independent Online

Mark Lewis-Francis, who turned down the chance of running at last year's Olympics Games in order to achieve his ambition of becoming the world junior 100 metres champion, yesterday received his official invitation to the big league when he was called into Britain's European Cup team.

The 18-year-old from Darlaston, near Wolverhampton, will run the individual 100m at Bremen this weekend in place of the world bronze medallist Dwain Chambers, who withdrew from the team yesterday.

Chambers is suffering from a tight hamstring and does not want to risk jeopardising his challenge for another world medal at Edmonton in August.

His withdrawal means that Lewis-Francis will gain his first experience of a senior international championship outdoors. If he can make the same impact as he did in March, when he took the 60m bronze medal at the European Indoor Championships in Lisbon, Britain's points total looks like being healthy enough after the short sprint in Bremen.

"If Dwain had the World Championships this weekend he would probably be able to take part, but at this stage of the season he doesn't want to take unnecessary risks," said Britain's head coach, Max Jones. "At least we have still got the favourite for the event."

Britain's position in the sprint relay is looking less healthy, however, with both Darren Campbell and Jason Gardener likely to miss the event through injury. Had the relay squad been at full strength, Lewis-Francis may have missed out altogether. "The point of the European Cup is to get round and win," Jones said at the original team announcement. "For that we need experience." Now, however, they are relying upon the talented youngster to help get Britain off to a strong start in a competition where they are expecting to meet a strong challenge from the host nation.