Athletics: Chambers overcomes false start to restore reputation

European Athletics Championships: British sprinter shakes off Commonwealth Games problems but Edwards faces twin threat in triple jump

Mike Rowbottom
Sunday 15 December 2013 03:30
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Dwain Chambers, a baffled and diminished figure when last in the public eye, restated his case to be considered the best sprinter in Europe here in a rainswept Olympic Stadium last night as he put his Commonwealth trials behind him.

Having hopped away in distress from last Saturday week's Commonwealth 100 metres final after suffering another episode of the cramping which has struck at crucial times in his career, the man who has twice beaten the world No 1, Maurice Greene, this season reached today's semi-finals with a powerfully assured piece of running that brought him the fastest qualifying time of 10.08sec, two-tenths of a second clear of his closest challenger.

Despite having to play safe after making one false start, the powerfully built 24-year-old Londoner moved into the lead at the halfway point and finished three metres clear, easing down. It was an ideal morale booster after Manchester, where his fellow Briton Mark Lewis-Francis also limped out of the final.

Chambers, silver medallist behind Darren Campbell in this event four years ago, now looks well placed to earn what would be Britain's fifth consecutive European 100m victory.

"I got a super acceleration," Chambers said. "That's all I needed." Earlier in the day, after winning his opening heat, he gave an indication of his optimistic mood. "I'm still standing man, don't worry," he said with a grin. "I'm good."

Campbell got off to a smooth start in the defence of his title, and won his second-round heat with something to spare in 10.29sec, ahead of one of the main challengers, Portugal's adopted Nigerian Francis Obikwelu, who has a best of 9.97sec.

Jason Gardener did the same after getting away to a characteristically sharp start in his heat, although he tightened up in the finishing stages to finish second in 10.28 behind Georgios Theodoridis, of Greece, who won in 10.25.

Kelly Holmes reached tomorrow's 800m final safely, taking the lead in the final 20 metres of her heat to win in 2min 03.18sec.

All three British 1500m runners ­ the Commonwealth champion Michael East, John Mayock and Anthony Whiteman ­ reached tomorrow's final, although not without some anxiety. Whiteman, shattered by his narrow failure to win a Commonwealth 1500m medal, managed to qualify fourth despite having to avoid an errant television cameraman, who had strayed from the infield after the runners had covered 400m.

Francisco Fernandez, of Spain, the world record holder in the 20km walk, also had to take rapid avoiding action en route to claiming the first gold of the championships after a spectator stepped out in front of him on his approach to the stadium.

The problem with being No 1, as Jonathan Edwards well knows, is that there's always someone trying to move up from No 2. Having completed his set of triple jump titles in Manchester last week, the 36-year-old Olympic, world, European and now Commonwealth champion recognised that the next challenge would arrive immediately.

"You can't afford to rest on your laurels," he said in the aftermath of his Commonwealth victory. Yesterday's events here proved how right he was, as well as leaving a doubt over whether he will be fit enough to contest Thursday night's final.

The good news for the Gateshead athlete was that he qualified at his first attempt, registering an effort of 16.99 metres. It was the first time in five years that he could recall making a final with one jump.

But his grimace of pain as he left the pit attested to the fact that he had aggravated an injury which had been hanging around for a couple of weeks.

"My shin is a bit sore," Edwards said after his jump. "It's been a bit tender for the last couple of weeks. I'm assuming if the ankle doesn't go up like a balloon I'll be OK, but it's swollen a little already."

The two young contenders who have registered victories over the great man this season moved into the final with assurance. Sweden's Christian Olsson registered a first jump of 17.10m, and Phillips Idowu, who took Commonwealth silver for England behind Edwards with a personal best of 17.68m, produced a prodigious qualifying effort of 17.54, his second best ever.

Daniel Caines and Tim Benjamin moved through to this evening's 400m semi-finals, but Sean Baldock found this an event too far after his Commonwealth exertions. Caines ran 46.06sec to proceed as seventh fastest, a place ahead of Benjamin, in 46.15. France's Marc Raquil, was the fastest in 45.70, but Russia's 21-year-old Olympic 800m finalist Yuriy Borzakovskiy remains a dark horse having qualified in 46.28.

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