Timing fault denies Lewis-Francis a record

World Athletics Championships: Sprinter suffers disappointment as Olympic triple-jump champion nearly misses out on final place
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The Independent Online

Mark Lewis Francis used a short, popular word to express his disappointment at learning his world junior 100 metres record of 9.97sec, set in reaching the World Championship semi-finals, had been annulled because of a faulty wind gauge.

The 18-year-old from near Birmingham had whooped and bucked with delight on seeing the digital display which indicated he had become the first teenager to break 10.00sec, a performance he had apparently achieved into a headwind of 2.1 metres per second.

But officials ruled later that a temporary malfunction of the wind gauge had resulted in some "unusual readings" in the 100 metres quarter-finals, where the world record-holder, Maurice Greene, ran the fastest time of 9.88 into what was credited as a 5.1 metres per second headwind.

"I'm a bit disappointed, but I'm going to go out and do the same thing again anyway," said Lewis before the semi-finals got underway.

Even though bad luck has now rendered the performance ineligible for record purposes, it stands as a vivid indicator that Lewis Francis, who added the European junior title last month to the world version he had won nine months earlier, is closing steadily on his ambition of becoming the world's fastest runner.

"I wasn't expecting to do this so soon in the championship," Lewis Francis said after his second-round run. "I couldn't believe it when I saw the time. I blasted it to 60 metres and just relaxed. I've got a lot more in me. That was an easy 9.97. I wasn't flat out at the end. I've got three years of hard training ahead of me. Then I'll be ready for Greene."

Lewis Francis's team-mate Dwain Chambers also restated his own ambitions of toppling the American world and Olympic champion as he won his heat in a time of 9.97sec, which – had there been no malfunction – would have equalled the personal best he set in winning a world bronze two years ago in Seville.

After contending with a first- round distraction, when officials ruled that his spikes were too wide and he had to borrow a pair of Iwan Thomas's shoes, the problem was sorted out and he was able to revert to his normal shoe.

"After I saw what Mark did and I couldn't believe it," Chambers said. "I thought I'd have to go out and put down a marker." All three US runners surpassed the efforts of the leading Britons in the quarter-finals – Tim Montgomery, US champion in Greene's absence, recorded 9.92sec, and Bernard Williams was timed at 9.95, which was one of eight personal bests set within the round.

Whatever the vagaries of the wind gauge, it is clear that the newly-laid Mondo track at the Commonwealth Stadium is favouring sprinters, who already benefit from running at a venue which is 2,200 feet above sea level. That is well short of the level of 3,000 feet above which performances are deemed to be altitude-assisted for record purposes.

Marion Jones's first round time of 10.93sec as she got her defence of the 100m title underway yesterday only served to confirm that impression.

Before recording her time, Jones had been the second athlete in the heat to false start. Under the rules which the International Association of Athletics Federations has agreed to put in place by 2003, which only allows one false start per race for events up to 400 metres, the world champion would now be disqualified.

There was disappointment for Britain in the women's 400 metres hurdles, where Natasha Danvers, who has been training alongside Greene with the HSI Group in California, missed a qualifying place after finishing fourth in 56.36sec.

Danvers, who has a personal best of 54.95sec, had been tipped for a medal here by both Greene and the group's coach, John Smith. But what transpired was another disappointment to set alongside her fall at the European Cup in Bremen two months ago.

The chances of Donna Fraser, fourth in the Olympic 400m, filling the gap left by the withdrawal of Olympic bronze medallist Katharine Merry look slim, given her own recent recovery from an Achilles tendon injury. But she managed to negotiate the first round yesterday.

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