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Chambers falls short in a shaky second coming

29 June 2006

By David Powel

Like the new City of Málaga Stadium, where the two-day European Cup is being staged, Dwain Chambers looked short of the finished article last night. Chambers, wearing a Great Britain vest for the first time in almost three years, was so despondent at his defeat in the 100 metres that he said he needed “to go back to the drawing board”.

The venue itself seemed closer to drawing board than completion, with diggers and cranes scattered outside, bags of cement and pots of paint littering the corridors within, an unfinished roof, and nothing more than temporary wire fencing standing between spectators and the sheer drop from the back of the grandstand.

As a work in progress, Chambers acknowledged that he, too, has some way to go. Having recorded 10.07sec at Gateshead 17 days earlier, in his first race since returning from a doping ban, he was looking for further improvement. But he clocked only 10.19 in finishing second to Ronald Pognon, the defending champion from France.

A poor start left Chambers chasing all the way as he sought to win the title for the second time. He won it in 1999, and again in 2002, but was recently disqualified from the second of these after he confessed to being on drugs at the time. “I have got no excuse,” Chambers said of his run. “Welcome back to the real world.

“I am not very happy, firstly because of the loss and second because of not getting the points that we needed. There was a huge responsibility on me because I was expected to perform, especially after my performance in Gateshead. But I have been out for 2½ years and I was expecting to come out and run faster here today.” Whether Chambers will go to Athens now, for the Super Grand Prix meeting on Monday, where he would face Justin Gatlin, the Olympic and world champion, is open to question.

“I will see what my coach suggests,” he said. “I was not worried about him (Pognan) when the gun went, I just did not have any gas in my legs.”

After winning the men’s trophy three times in four years, between 1997 and 2000, Britain have suffered a swift decline. They won it again in 2002, but lost it because of Chambers’s indiscretions, and avoided relegation last season only because Málaga built a nine-lane track, allowing one team more than the normal eight.

As the competition will return next year to an eight-team format at the Olympic Stadium in Munich, the bottom three after the second and final day in Málaga this evening go down unless Germany are among them. As the hosts are spared relegation, should Germany finish seventh, eighth or ninth, the sixth-placed team would be demoted.

Germany finished the first day in eighth place, so Britain’s position looks precarious. They are fifth, but only one point ahead of France, after a night’s labours in which there was not one British victory in the ten men’s events. Chambers should not feel so bad. He was the only British man to manage even a second placing.

Germaine Mason, the former Jamaican making his debut for Britain, placed third in the high jump with a modest 2.27 metres, Andrey Silnov, of Russia, winning with 2.31. Only Mason, Chambers and the 4 x 100 metres team managed top-three finishes. The biggest disappointment was Greg Rutherford, last in the long jump on 5.98 metres. Andrew Howe, of Italy, led the way with 8.29.

Rutherford, the European junior champion, was selected in preference to Chris Tomlinson, twice a European Cup winner, but his best distance left him last by almost a metre.

Russia lead by 17 points and look set to do the double, as their women lead by 19 points. Britain’s women, promoted last season, face the second day fighting against relegation after the good work of Tasha Danvers-Smith and Jo Pavey was undone by misfortune.

Danvers-Smith won the 400 metres hurdles, and Pavey the 3,000 metres, but Rebecca Lyne was tripped, fell and finished eighth in the 800 metres, and the 4 x 100 metres relay team botched the second baton change.

Zoe Derham, a hammer thrower brought in as substitute for Philippa Roles in the discus, finished last and Tina Brown, in for Elizabeth Hall in the steeplechase, earned only three points.

Sweden and Romania look destined for relegation with Britain, seventh, occupying the other spot.

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