Greene throws down the gauntlet

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The Independent Online

The outcome of next month's World Championship 100 metres final appeared easy to forecast last night as Maurice Greene, the defending champion and world record holder, ran clear of a world-class field to win the Norwich Union British Grand Prix in a time of 9.98sec. It might have been even faster without the headwind.

While the American, now minus the strapping which has recently adorned his left knee following tendinitis, looks as if he is running into ideal form at the ideal time, the picture is less clear for Britain's challengers.

Dwain Chambers, who took bronze behind Greene at the 1999 World Championships in Seville, indicated that he is still a medal contender at worst as he finished second in 10.11, but who will fill the remaining British 100m place when the final selection is announced today remains uncertain. Darren Campbell, who only managed sixth place in the 100m at last weekend's world trials because of a hamstring problem, had hoped to offer selectors evidence of his fitness last night. But he could only manage seventh place in 10.48.

Greene got away for a time that was just outside his own stadium record of 9.97 after a nervy sequence which saw the race held up by two false starts – one of them from Campbell – and one stand-up, as the roar of a javelin thrower affected the sprinters' concentration at a crucial moment.

Before the main 100 metres event took place, an invitation version offered one of Britain's up and coming talents the chance to measure up to big-time opposition. John Barbour's achievements have been overshadowed by the recent exploits of Mark Lewis-Francis, who, at 18, is two years his junior, but Barbour – one of Chambers' training partners – had earned his own laurels the previous weekend by winning the European under-23 title.

The event also presented Christian Malcolm, third in the previous weekend's world trials over 100m, the opportunity to assess his own form having already secured a 200m place for Edmonton.

The outcome was not an outstanding one for the former world junior champion, his hair a new shade of what might be described as gold, who finished second in 10.35 behind Doug Bignall, who won in a personal best of 10.30. It was a more encouraging for Barbour, who took fourth place in 10.29, just 0.03sec outside his personal best time from Amsterdam the previous weekend.

Barbour was one of six British gold medal winners over the course of the competition in the Netherlands, while Jonathan Moore and Aileen Wilson were winning the triple jump and high jump titles, respectively, at the World Youth Championships in Hungary. That healthy indication for the future of the domestic sport was reinforced over the course of this weekend as the European Junior Championships in Grosseto, Italy produced another golden crop.

The day after Lewis-Francis, had completed his set of junior titles by winning in a wind-assisted 10.09, and Tim Benjamin had won the 400m in a personal best of 46.43, Vernicha James added a third British gold with a victory which had not been predicted even for her prodigious talents.

Racing against competitors who were in most cases two years her senior, the Belgrave Harrier, who turned 17 last month, won in a British age best of 22.93, 0.45sec clear of the German winner of the 100m, Katchi Habel.

It marked another breakthrough for the girl following in the footsteps of Olympic bronze medallist, Katharine Merry, whose UK junior indoor 200m record she broke last year. The future looks rich indeed for a talent whose career developed dramatically thanks to a chance meeting in a branch of Debenhams. Her mother was working in her local branch of the store when she spotted the international athletes John Regis and Jenny Stoute going up an escalator. Luckily she caught them before they disappeared and persuaded them to take a look at her daughter. They did – and the rest is becoming history.

The men's 400m hurdles, involving respective Olympic gold and silver medallists, Angelo Taylor of the United States and Hadi Al Somaily of Saidi Arabia, offered a competition within a competition, effectively representing a run-off for the final Edmonton place between Anthony Borsumato, third in the trials, and Matt Elias, who won the European under-23 title on the same weekend.Borsumato won his own personal battle, finishing sixth in 49.71 as Elias was last in 50.37, while ahead of him, another domestic rivalry was taking a twist as Du'Aine Ladejo, second in the trials, earned his first victory over the man who finished first in Birmingham, Chris Rawlinson, clocking 49.37 for fourth place.

The event was won from Taylor by the Dominican Republic's Felix Sanchez in 47.95, which equalled the world's fastest of this year.

Ashia Hansen, who had returned to action after injury with victory at the previous weekend's trials, continued to make progress in the triple jump against a world-class field. Having registered 14.09 metres at the trials, the world indoor record holder had registered a windy mark of 14.18m at a midweek meeting in Sweden, and yesterday she jumped consistently in the opening stages of the competition, recording 14.07m with her third effort.

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