Tue, Aug 08, 2006 - Page 20 News List

Chambers leads the way in 100m heats

COMEBACK Dwain Chambers made a triumphant return to top-level athletics as he breezed into the second round one-hundredth of a second ahead of rival Francis Obikwelu

AGENCIES , GOTHENBURG, SWEDEN

From left, Spain's Orkatz Beitia, Britain's Dwain Chambers and Daniel Abenzoar-Foule of Luxembourg in action during the 100m heats at the European Athletics Championships in Gothenburg, Sweden, yesterday.

PHOTO: EPA

Dwain Chambers led the way in the 100m heats at the European championships yesterday, the first major event for the Briton after serving a two-year doping ban.

Chambers advanced into the second round set yesterday with 10.24 seconds, with title holder Francis Obikwelu of Portugal on 10.25 and Frenchman Ronald Pognon on 10.26.

Chambers originally won the 2002 title but was stripped of it after testing positive for the designer steroid THG in 2003 and admitting that he also used illegal substances in 2002.

The Briton, who returned to competition two months ago, said he won't speak to the press until after today's final.

Obikwelu said: "I played it cool in the heats. I just wanted to secure my place in the semi-finals. It will be a nice final."

Obikwelu had said that he was happy to be running against Chambers again.

Obikwelu finished second to Chambers four years ago, but inherited the title following the Briton's positive drug test.

"It doesn't bother me," Obikwelu told reporters on Sunday when asked what he thought of competing against Chambers.

"I'm happy for him to be back. He's been my friend for a long time so I'm pleased for him to come back and race with me," he said.

Chambers, who was cleared to return to competition by the International Association of Athletics Federations in June following a two-year doping ban, is likely to be Obikwelu's main rival for gold but the Portuguese is determined to prove his right to hold the title by winning today's final.

"I didn't like it this way," the Nigerian-born Obikwelu said of being made European champion after Chambers's disqualification.

"I got the silver in 2002 and didn't run very well. I want to win the gold medal here for my own dignity," he said.

"It's an open race for everybody. I'll just go there and do my thing. I'm ready for anybody, that's how I train it doesn't matter who's there," he added.

France's Eunice Barber bravely challenged home favorite Carolina Kluft to hold the lead in the heptathlon after two events at the European championships yesterday.

Kluft's great rival, Barber clocked the fastest time in the first of seven disciplines, the 100m hurdles, before matching the Olympic, world and European champion in the high jump, both athletes clearing 1.89m.

With five events remaining in the two-day contest, Barber, who came second to Kluft at the last two world championships, topped the standings with 2,201 points.

"I feel extremely good and I'm happy to lead after two events but I want to beat Carolina in every of them," warned Barber. "That's what I trained so hard for."

Kluft, competing at a major championship in her home country for the first time, remained in contention in second place, 36 points back on 2,165 points.

The 23-year-old Swede, whose preparations have been hampered by a sore hamstring, worried a partisan crowd by managing only the fifth fastest time in 13.35 seconds in the 100m hurdles.

She soon bounced back, punching the air with a clenched fist after clearing 1.89m at her first attempt in the high jump.

Barber, who clocked the best time of 13.11 seconds in the 100m hurdles, also cleared that height.

The two then each failed at 1.92m, leaving the competition wide open at the end of the morning session.

"I have a few problems with my hamstring and the worst event for that is the hurdles, so I'm glad to have managed that quite well," Kluft said.

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