CHAMBERS FAILS AGAIN - Monte Carlo -14Sept03-

Chambers fails again
By Simon Hart in Monte Carlo (Filed: 14/09/2003)

The end of the season cannot come fast enough for Dwain Chambers. Yesterday, just a few weeks after being touted as the most in-form sprinter in the world, he looked as if he had just gone 12 rounds in the ring as he sat in the bowels of the Louis II Stadium, shook his head and tried to comprehend yet another crushing defeat, this time at the hands of America’s Bernard Williams.

“You look like you need a break,” came one comment as he struggled to explain his disappointing fourth place in a time of 10.10sec at the World Athletics Final, behind runners he has beaten regularly in the past. “Yeah,” came the reply after a long silence. “I might even make that a permanent one.”

The experience of Paris, where he failed to deliver in the individual 100 metres and was embarrassingly overhauled in the relay, has left Chambers deeply wounded, though the Londoner, beaten into seventh place in Brussels last week, remains mystified by his dramatic loss of form.

“I’m doing everything right in training but I just don’t know what’s happening,” he said.

“I’ve had a lot of stuff to deal with this year with injuries, the high expectations and the downs at the worlds. But I’ve got no choice but to stick it out. It’s my living. It’s what puts food on my table.”

A victory in his final outing of the season in Moscow next weekend would do much more than that since it carries a staggering first prize of $500,000, though his gloomy mood yesterday suggests it could be a race too far.

“I don’t know what’s going on,” he continued. “I’ve been through this before with last year’s escapades in Manchester, but I still came back on top. I just don’t know what’s happening, I really don’t. There are guys out there who shouldn’t be beating me, but they are. Maybe this is just a year when I have to take my hits.”

His depression perhaps sums up Britain’s lacklustre season, which reached its nadir at the World Championships earlier this month.

Invitations to this inaugural two-day event, a lucrative epilogue to the season, are offered only to the leading athletes on the world list, and it is a reflection of Britain’s summer of under-achievement that Chambers is one of only eight home athletes who made it to the start line out of an all-star cast of around 300.

Another is Hayley Tullett, who, at the age of 30, set an example to her colleagues in Paris by producing the team’s only personal best on her way to a surprise bronze medal in the 1500m.

Yesterday, she showed it was no flash in the pan as she held on bravely to claim another third place over the same distance, earning herself a $12,000 cheque and, more importantly, reinforcing her new-found belief that she is capable of challenging for a medal at next year’s Olympics. The race was won by Surreya Ayhan, of Turkey, with Britain’s Jo Pavey in fourth place.

Tullett, a PE teacher from Woking, Surrey, is disarmingly modest about her achievements and admits she has found her recent success difficult to handle after years of fighting over the minor places.

“I’ve been feeling quite tired and flat since the World Championships,” she said.

"Had I been expected to get a medal I think I would have been better prepared in dealing with it. It was a surprise to me that I made the final, though once you’re there then anything can happen.

"At first I struggled to actually deal with it. Everyone was so pleased with me, which was great.

“But I’ve been trying to play it down because I was almost embarrassed. I’d never won a medal and I wasn’t used to it. People kept coming up to congratulate me and I kept trying to change the subject.”

Another athlete desperately trying to change the subject yesterday was American sprinter Kelli White, who shook her head and retreated to the changing area when asked for an update on her battle to clear her name after testing positive for a banned stimulant in Paris.

Although she won her 200m event yesterday, her modest time of 22.35sec means she is almost certain to miss out on a $100,000 pay day for ending the season as the overall female athlete of the year.

She now needs to run 10.77sec in today’s 100m - 0.08sec faster than the drug-tainted personal best she set in Paris - if she is to overhaul the brilliant South African high jumper, Hestre Cloete, a winner yesterday with a clearance of 2.01m.

All of which must leave the International Association of Athletics Federations sighing with relief.

This evening the top male and female athletes of the year will be anointed at a glitzy gala in the principality and, though Morocco’s Hicham El Guerrouj is likely to be one worthy recipient of the prize, the prospect of White claiming the female version has been filling the world governing body with dread.

Since White’s two gold medals in Paris form part of the ranking calculations, any award for the Californian would have to be subject to the outcome of her doping hearing in the United States.

It is not exactly an harmonious note on which to close the season.