The last time Dwain Chambers competed in the London Grand Prix, back in 2003, he was celebrating his victory in the 100 metres when the scoreboard flashed up: "1 D Chambers 9.53 world record." The Londoner clasped his hands to his mouth in disbelief, and with good reason.
It transpired that there had been a malfunction with the electronic timing system. The Belgrave Harrier had not become the first man to break 9.60 seconds, beating Usain Bolt by six years. After an age, his winning time was rounded up to a hand-timed 10.0sec.
It was two months later that Chambers tested positive for a frightening cocktail of drugs. He returned to competition after a two-year ban in 2006 but had to wait until the fall of a British Olympic Association bye-law barring all athletes who had tested positive until he was invited back to the annual showpiece at the south London Palace.
At 34, Chambers can no longer claim to be the king of British sprinting. He might have beaten Adam Gemili to win the 100m final at the Olympic trials in Birmingham last month but he has since been eclipsed by the dashing deeds of the young prince.
At the World Junior Championships in Barcelona on Wednesday, Gemili clocked 10.05sec. Had the wind been behind him up to the legal limit of two metres per second, the 18-year-old would have run 9.92sec and gone into the history books as the first teenager to break 10 seconds for the 100m.
If the former Dagenham & Redbridge footballer is the garlic bread of British 100m running – the future – Chambers is in danger of becoming the past. Last night, in the absence of Gemili, who was on junior relay duty in Barcelona, he settled into his starting blocks for the 100m heats with a season's best of 10.25sec. Against world-class opposition, he failed to make an improvement.
As the American Ryan Bailey sped to victory in 10.06sec, Chambers struggled home in fifth, in 10.35sec. At least he was the first British finisher. Mark Lewis-Francis was seventh in 10.55sec and Simeon Williamson eighth in 10.67sec. All three failed to make it through to the final.
That race was won in 10.03sec by Tyson Gay. The American is playing catch up on Jamaica's Yohan Blake and Usain Bolt after undergoing surgery to repair a torn hip.
"I want to win the gold medal," he said, switching his focus to the bigger picture of the London Olympics to come. "I want to come home with a medal. I came up short in 2008. I didn't even make the final. I want to redeem myself."
Asked whether he still considered Bolt as the man to beat, despite his loss to Blake at the Jamaican trials, Gay replied: "I think so. And that's just coming from respect.
"I've been in a race at a major championships where he dragged me to the line. He's been somewhere where no-one else has been.
"First place at the trials, second place, third place… it doesn't matter. He's on the team. He's still going to the Games, and the big show is at the Olympics."
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