London 2012: Chambers leads Team GB sprint hopes
Can Great Britain trio mount a challenge against mighty Jamaicans?
Dwain Chambers admitted in the build-up to London 2012 that just getting to the Games felt like winning a gold medal – and now the Islington sprinter is confident he can do it for real.
It will be no easy task. Islington-born Chambers will take his place in the men’s 100m heats on Saturday alongside Team GB’s other hopefuls, Adam Gemili and James Dasaolu, as a rank outsider.
All three are considered outside bets even for a place in the final as they take on the Jamaican world-record holder Usain Bolt – the current 100m and 200m Olympic champion – and his countryman Yohan Blake, the reigning world champion.
The Brits will also face stiff competition from a third Jamaican, Asafa Powell, the former world champion Tyson Gay and his fellow American Justin Gatlin.
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Like Chambers, Gatlin tested positive for a banned substance, resulting in a four-year ban in 2006 – but the 30-year-old, who won the Olympic gold in 2004, is set to be in the mix again after running 9.80 to win the US trials in June.
By contrast, Chambers’s form has been poor – the 34-year-old from Archway has not run faster than 10.25 seconds for the last six months, and some questioned his right to be included in Team GB.
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However, having had a lifetime drugs ban overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, giving him the chance to compete in front of his home fans, Chambers is targeting a place in Sunday evening’s final – and he is not ruling out a medal.
“If I can sail through the heats comfortably, then get through the semi-final and then get to the final, anything can happen,” said Chambers. “It has to be [the goal]. I’d like to get into the final.
“Current form may show that I’m not in good shape, but physically and mentally I do feel in a position where I can go out there and perform. In previous years, I’ve always been able to.
“I’ve made numerous finals throughout my career. I still feel I have the ability, I’ve just got to do the best I know I can.”
For Croydon’s Gemili, meanwhile, the pressure is off. London 2012 is all about experience for the 18-year-old, who took gold in 10.05 seconds at the World Junior Championships – and Gay feels the young Londoner has the potential to become one of the greatest sprinters of all time.
“I don’t think it’s too much too soon – anything can happen,” Gay said of Gemili. “I just think he has to continue what he’s doing. He’s still rough, still new to all this so I don’t think you should throw a lot at him.”
While Bolt and Blake are the favourites for the 100m Olympic title, there has been speculation over Bolt’s fitness in the build-up to the Games.
He was beaten by Blake in both the 100m and 200m at the Jamaican trials – but Jamaica team doctor Winston Dawes says such fears are unfounded.
“If the conditions are ideal, then we are going to see something fantastic – we may see records go,” he said.
“They are 100 per cent fit and 100 per cent raring to go. They are mentally fit and they are going to be going all out.”