Great Britain's Dwain Chambers waited 12 years to get back to the Olympics. It could end up being a triumphant return.
Chambers, whose lifetime ban as a doping offender was overturned in May, won his 100-meter heat in 10.02 seconds today. He advanced to Sunday's semi-finals, along with favorites Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell, Tyson Gay and Justin Gatlin.
"More than anything, it's just a great feeling to know that when you've had upsets in your life, if you still remain focused and believe in yourself anything can happen," Chambers said.
The London-born Chambers finished fourth in the 100 at the 2000 Sydney Games. But he was banned from competing for two years after testing positive for the steroid tetrahydrogestrinone in 2003. The British Olympic authority banned him for life.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled the BOA's lifetime ban was not in compliance with the World Anti-Doping Agency code, declaring Chambers had served his ban and clearing the way for his return.
He was named in the British team last month.
He had been counting the days until his first race, a wait that gave him time to reflect on what it truly meant to be back.
"It was difficult because my last Olympic experience was 12 years ago," he said. "I still remember it clearly to this day. The main point that I have become eligible to compete, and I just want to make sure I've done my team, my friends, my family, the supporters proud. Being here, being eligible to get here is one thing, but performing is what's important."
Chambers received a warm welcome from the home crowd, which has packed into the 80,000-seat Olympic Stadium for two days of track and field.
"The welcome was, 'Wow, what was that?"' Chambers said. "The welcome is what gave it an extra bit more than anything else. The fear of getting through the heats comfortably was nerve-racking for everybody, mostly for myself. ... I was just more worried about my performance, just coming this far and not doing it.
"It worked out. I just have to keep my mind on the present occasion and just go out there and perform well."
Chambers' time was a season best, not a huge surprise given the speed of the Olympic track surface. But he knows he will have to be even faster in the semifinals.
"I know I've got the potential to run fast," he said. "I've just put it together at the right time. I wasn't even expecting to run that fast. I don't want to run sub-10 (seconds) now and not doing it in the final. I'll be kicking myself."
He'd be even more aggravated with himself if he didn't cherish every moment of his first Olympics in a dozen years. The 34-year-old sprinter is much different now than he was in Athens.
"More than anything, I've learned now in my age not to take things for granted," Chambers said. "I've got kids. I just want to make sure I take the right steps and do the right things to set the right example."