As one golden gate closed to London athletics yesterday, another nudged further ajar for a Londoner. It was announced here on the eve of their Grand Prix Final that the International Association of Athletics Federations would not be including the Crystal Palace British Grand Prix on its schedule of Golden League meetings next summer.
It was also announced that Maurice Greene would not contest the 100 metres in the Stade Charlety this afternoon, thereby reducing the battle for the world No 1 spot in the event this year to a straight fight between Dwain Chambers, a native of Finsbury, and Tim Montgomery, who hails from Norfolk – Norfolk, Virginia, that is.
The failure of Britain's showpiece track meeting to get into the global big league came as the greater surprise. It had been expected that the Crystal Palace event would be upgraded to Golden League status but the IAAF Council decided to keep faith with Oslo – the scene of countless world records over the years – with the proviso that an eight-lane track is in place there in time for next summer.
So it has been left to Chambers to find a Midas touch for British athletics in Paris.The 24-year-old Belgrave Harrier lines up as co-favourite with Montgomery for the 100m in the Grand Prix Final, with no prospect now of Greene returning to form, the world record holder having announced his intention to end his disappointing season with just one more race, in Yokohama on Monday. Greene still boasts the fastest time of the year, 9.89sec, but with six defeats against him (five of them to Chambers) the American's five-year reign as the world's top-ranked 100m man will come to an end over the course of the next seven days.
Chambers and Montgomery, who meet again at the World Cup in Madrid on Friday, are closely matched contenders for the No 1 spot. Montgomery has won impressively in Zurich and Brussels and has run faster (9.91sec, against the Briton's 9.94sec). Chambers, though, has won the European title, has beaten Greene five times and enjoys a 2-1 record against Montgomery.
"By my calculations, there is no way Dwain can catch me on points," Montgomery insisted. "How can you say you're number one when you've come and gone on the circuit like Dwain has while week after week myself and Maurice have been tearing each other to shreds? If you ask who's the faster, Dwain has run nine seconds three times this summer; I've run nine seconds six times. But I want to win in Paris and in Madrid because I don't want anyone saying, 'Tim got the number one spot; Dwain should have had it'."
Chambers restricted his comments to: "I want to finish my season in style." He has been preparing for his grand finale with training at Saarbrucken in Germany, under the gaze of Remy Korchemny, the Ukrainian sprint guru, who lives in San Fransisco, in the shadow of the Golden Gate.
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