Macey brings a smile to British camp

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The Independent Online

Taking his place at the top table in the Athena Room at Britain's Olympic training headquarters yesterday, Dean Macey considered the fact that he had made it, through three hamstrung years, to the decathlon competition in Athens.

Taking his place at the top table in the Athena Room at Britain's Olympic training headquarters yesterday, Dean Macey considered the fact that he had made it, through three hamstrung years, to the decathlon competition in Athens.

"As long as I'm on the line, I'm dangerous," he said. Then he paused briefly before adding: "To whom I'm not sure but I'm dangerous. That's for sure." Denise Lewis and Kelly Sotherton, sitting alongside him, cracked up.

Britain's Olympic track and field camp might be short of glittering contenders for gold but it has been lit up by a 6ft 5in ray of sunshine since the decathlon man from Canvey Island landed on the west coast of Cyprus on Monday night.

Asked how frustrating his prolonged hamstring problem had been, Macey replied: "It's obvious to say it's been a pain in the arse." Then, reflecting on the disappointment of his fourth-placed finish in Sydney, he mused: "Well, I ran my arse off" - before getting stopped in his tracks by the disapproving Lewis.

"That's two, Dean," the reigning heptathlon champion said. "Yeah," Macey continued. "There's a swear box and I have to watch it... I'm skint."

If the former lifeguard was a danger to anything yesterday, it was to his wallet. And yet, having paid a heavy price for his injury - losing his lucrative endorsement contracts, and his place in the international arena since the 2001 World Championships - he could afford to sit back and smell the rose-scented aroma of the Olympian challenge in the air. Until he crossed the 1500m finish line in the Hexham International Decathlon three-and-a-half weeks ago, Macey was facing the prospect of another major championship as a guest in a television studio.

Hence the even more bouncy mood than normal yesterday. "I couldn't sleep last night," Macey confided, the multi-eventers' press conference having finished with only minimal further damage to his wallet.

"There were two reasons. One: there was a bloody great cockroach climbing up my effing [sic] wall. And two: I was full of beans. I got up and went down to the physio room. There was a trampoline in there and I was jumping up and down on it. I was just full of energy. And, after a flight, mate, that's usually it for me; I'm finished."

So what was it like, then, the morning after, to wake up and feel the Team GB crest next to his chest? "Yeah it's looking good, innit?" Macey said. "To be fair, it hit home as soon as I finished the 1500m in Hexham. I didn't have to wait until I got my kit. I'd compete naked if I had to... Might knock a few more hurdles down."

The remaining company cracked up again. He might, by his own admission, be some way short of gold medal shape in Athens, but having Macey challenge for a long-odds place on the podium will be a breath of fresh air for the British team.

At 26, he still has time to fulfil the world-beating potential he showed as a 1999 World Championship silver medallist. He still has the conviction too. "I believe I'm as good as any man on God's earth," he said. "I look at the world record and I don't think it's out of my reach."

For the time being Macey, like Lewis, has reached the heights simply by making it to Athens. "With Denise, we called it Mission Miracle," Charles van Commenee, the British team's multi-events coach, said. "With Dean, we called it Mission Effing [sic] Miracle."

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