Wednesday, 31 March 2010

From Goats to Gold


If ever there were proof that taking a risk and daring to dream could result in a life-changing experience, Joseph Ebuya’s story is just that. The Kenyan left his fellow cattle herdsmen and travelled over 400km to realise his love of distance running and now, just five years later in a true rags to riches tale, he is the World cross-country Champion, writes Nicola Bamford.

Relatively un-heralded before 2010, 22-year-old Ebuya first shocked the athletics world in January by annihilating ‘king’ Kenenisa Bekele; the ten-time global cross-country champion in the BUPA Great Edinburgh international, before causing an even bigger surprise - though not to himself – when emphatically taking the world title in Poland last weekend.

The modest prince glided majestically over the mud-drenched 12km course to sensationally storm to glory and establish himself as the new king of the cross. Ebuya; who prayed for the win mid-race by crossing his chest, produced a spectacular breakthrough which also led his countrymen to a resounding victory over their fierce rivals Ethiopia in the process.

Momentous achievement

It was indeed an historic day for Kenya in Bydgoszcz as they thrashed their East-African counter-parts by claiming all four individual and team titles; with Ebuya becoming the first Kenyan in eleven years to take the prestigious crown; a truly momentous achievement.

Fourth in the 2008 World cross, Ebuya explained: “I was very happy to win the IAAF World Cross Country and I am delighted to win my first major title. I had a very good cross country season over the winter and am happy to peak at the right time. I hope this is the start of a winning streak for me.”

Humble beginnings

Shy and softly-spoken, Ebuya; by his own admission, ‘had to fight a war’ to just get into his national squad for the highlight of the winter season: “I want to thank the people of Bydgoszcz for cheering me up as I was racing. I was not certain I would win but I started praying as I was racing, and I thank God that he has given me this win that I have dedicated to the Kenyans,” Ebuya revealed.

Ebuya has indeed come a long way from humble beginnings and only seriously training since 2004. Coached by Sammy Rono and Ricky Simms, Ebuya explained:

“I started running in 2004 by joining in with the PACE Sports Management runners when they went for morning runs. After a few months, they saw I had potential and invited me to come and live in their camp. I did not have money for food or running shoes and could not speak English or read and write so this was a big opportunity for me.”

Changing lives

Running certainly transformed Ebuya’s world for the better; his parents could not afford to take him to school so he stayed home to herd the family's goats.

Determined though, to grow into a champion, he trained in jeans and leather shoes in his spare time and now, following his unprecedented success, Ebuya wants to change the lives of others through the sport he holds so dear:

"I started running with little expectations. I never dreamt I could race against world beaters, although my instincts kept telling me that I would step onto the world scene. I call upon my fellow herdsmen to take up running. I'll strive to ensure that we set up an athletics training camp in Turkana and I want to change their lives."

Worthy of a movie

Ebuya’s life changed almost instantly after making the decision to chase his dream. After only a year’s training, he entered the international scene in 2006 with World junior 10,000m silver and 5,000m bronze, as well as fourth in the Commonwealth Games 5,000m in the same year – achievements which attracted sponsorship from Nike.

Though injury curtailed his World Championship ambition last summer; resulting in thirteenth place in the 5,000m, his potential was evident and the past year has witnessed a dramatic improvement courtesy of the same work ethic and dream which fuelled the ambition for the same deprived young boy who moved to Eldoret with a vision a few years ago.

Born in Nyahurunu, Ebuya shares his time between Kaptagat in his home country and Teddington, London during the summer and speaks highly of the man and solid support network that turned his life around:

“Ricky is the person who has helped me get to where I am now. He has taken me from having nothing to beating Bekele and the world’s best. He has high standards and has been telling me I can reach the top if I stay disciplined and train hard. We have a very strong team, with Usain Bolt (the Olympic and World 100m and 200m Champion and World record-holder) giving us inspiration to do well.”

Simms, in turn, has nothing but admiration for his protégé; “Joseph’s story would make a great movie one day – maybe if he wins the Olympics. Joseph was exceptional - he is one of the best examples of an athlete who had nothing. When we gave him his first shoes and track suit, he got injured immediately as he was not used to them. Running has given him a complete change of life. He has still a lot more to come if he can stay focussed and injury free.”

Dreams do come true

Ebuya; whose niece Alice Aprot-Nawowuna was ninth in the junior race in Poland, trains with world 10km record-holder Micah Kogo and World 5,000m Champion Vivian Cheruiyot in a forty-strong squad for two-to-three times per day.

From a family of eight children, Ebuya evidently feels at home in company and dreams of winning the Olympics in London 2012.

Time will tell of course, but the young man who is currently building a house and hopes to run a business in Kenya after his athletic career, has progressed beyond his wildest ambitions and has done it all so unassumingly; proving dreams really can come true.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Roaring success for the English Lions once more: Home Countries International, Berry Hill Park, Mansfield, March 27th


Team England repeated their 2009 success with a clean-sweep of team victories at the annual Home Countries cross-country international; collecting two individual titles in the process, writes Nicola Bamford.

Mansfield’s Berry Hill Park played host to the increasingly popular fixture, where England battled it out with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, in addition to squads representing the South, Midlands and North.

Scotland put up a stiff fight for supremacy with two individual victories and two team runners-up positions only decided on a narrow count-back but England drew strength from the home-support to dominate the days’ proceedings.

Senior women

British international Hatti Dean looked confident throughout; scoring an emphatic 18-second victory and leading Team England to top honours. The 28-year-old Hallamshire Harrier; fresh from third-place in the national, made light work of the opposition with 25:09 and never looked in doubt for the win.

Representing the South, Emma Pallant found herself in the runner-up spot for much of the race but England’s Hannah Whitmore came though strong over the last 800m to take the silver medal, with 25:27 to Pallant’s 25:43. The Charnwood AC runner (26) was recently 4th in the UK Championships and made up for being controversially overlooked for GB selection for the following days’ World Championships.

The Lions brought home their four runners in the top-five placings, courtesy of Natalie Gray (22, Medway and Maidstone) and Gemma Steel (24, Charnwood AC) who were fourth (25:48) and fifth (26:03), respectively.

Junior women

In the junior women’s race, national under-20 Champion Joanne Harvey asserted her intentions for victory by leading a group from the offset before powering away in the second half to win by a convincing margin. The 20-year-old Exeter Harrier clocked 21:30 for a 12-second lead over team-mate Naomi Taschimowitz.

Taschimowitz; 20, of Taunton AC, registered 21:42 for a clear second-place; capitalising on the form which saw her finish fourth in the national.

Laura Parker (19, Wells City Harriers) ensured an England 1-2-3 by coming home in 22:05, with baby of the team; 18-year-old recent English School’s 4th-placer, Rebecca Craigie (22:38, Vale Royal AC) completing the team in fifth position.

Senior men

In the most thrilling race of the day, England’s James Walsh relinquished a six-second lead in the final 600m to be passed by Scotland’s in-form Bruce Raeside in the finishing straight.

Despite his disappointment, Walsh finished only three-seconds adrift (in 31:54) and lead Team England to a narrow victory. The 28-year-old Leeds City Harrier, who was recently 6th in the UK Championships, divided the winner from another Scot, third-placed Tom Russell (32:03).

21-year-old Norwich athlete; Ashley Harrell finished in 7th in 32:44 to complete the squad.

Junior men

Scotland again took victory – this time from Matthew Gillespe; with England scorers further down the field yet still taking the runners-up spot for the team performance.

Seventeen year-old Karl Billington of Blackburn; fresh from second-place in the English School’s was the first England counter in fifth in 26:41; a mere second ahead of team-mate Andrew Combs (18, Tonbridge AC) in sixth. Coombs’ position followed-up the same placing he registered in the UK Championships.

One place and only three-seconds behind was Richard Peters (20, Bristol and West AC) and national sixth-placer Matthew Jackson (Warrington AC) came home in twelfth in 27:12.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Home Countries International, Berry Hill Park, Mansfield, March 27th


Team England will send four strong squads to the annual Home Countries international at Mansfield’s Berry Hill Park this Saturday, as they seek to replicate their resounding success from the 2009 event, writes Nicola Bamford.

Hosts England took victory in three of the four team competitions last year and will face Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in the match that was revived in Edinburgh two years’ ago after an eighteen-year absence.

Despite the World cross-country Championships taking place the following day in Poland, England will still produce some of the best senior and junior athletes these shores have to offer.

Junior women

In the junior women’s team, national under-20 Champion Joanne Harvey leads the way for the English Lions. The 20-year-old Exeter Harrier is in fine form following injury last year and will be joined by Taunton AC’s Naomi Taschimowitz; the 20-year-old who was 4th behind her in Leeds.

Laura Parker (19, Wells City Harriers) and Eleanor Wimshurst (18, Bristol and West AC); who were 6th in the national and UK Championships inc. World XC trials, respectively, complete the team.

Junior men

The junior men’s squad consists of national 6th-placer, Matthew Jackson (Warrington AC) and the 20-year-old who finished one place adrift; Richard Peters (Bristol and West AC).

Sixth and 7th, respectively, in the UK Championships, Andrew Combs (18, Tonbridge AC) and Thomas Bishop (18, Derby AC) complete the outfit.

Senior women

British international Hatti Dean starts as a hot favourite to take victory. The 28-year-old Hallamshire Harrier was third in the national and should make light work of the competition. Charnwood’s AC’s Hannah Whitmore (26); fresh from 4th in the UK Championships, will provide solid support.

Natalie Gray (22, Medway and Maidstone) and Gemma Steel (24, Charnwood AC); who placed 9th in the national and 11th in the UK Championships, respectively, also compete.

Senior men

James Walsh will lead the senior men’s squad. The 28-year-old Leeds City Harrier was recently 6th in the UK Championships and will be backed up by Darren Deed (31, Bedford and County AC); the man who was 8th in the same event and who placed 5th in this event last year.

Tom Humphries (25, Cannock and Staffs AC), who was 9th in the UK Championships and 21-year-old Norwich athlete; Ashley Harrell also compete.

Age no Barrier


For 36-year-old steeplechase and 1500m runner Helen Clitheroe, age certainly is no barrier to achieving success on the international scene. Fresh from the metric-mile final at the World indoor Championships, t he stalwart of British athletics spoke to Nicola Bamford about feeling stronger and speedier than ever.

Currently in her tenth year of international representation, Clitheroe is one for bucking trends. Not only has the Preston Harrier returned to her first love; the 1500m with eye-catching success, but she is also defying the critics who say the event is only for spring chickens.

With a mixture of scintillating speed and endurance honed from years of middle-distance and steeplechase running, Clitheroe finished a highly-respectable eighth in the World indoor Championships in Doha with 4:10.38 earlier this month to prove she’s not ready to hang up her spikes just yet.

Consistent and reliable

Over a long and distinguished career which has seen Clitheroe capture fifteen national titles over 1500m and the steeplechase indoors and out, major championship medals have been few and far between – yet consistency and reliability were always guaranteed from this gutsy runner.

Starting out as a 1500m-specialist, Clitheroe competed in the Sydney 2000 Olympics for experience before progressing onto 4th place in the 2005 and 2007 European indoor Championships. She even dabbled in cross-country for strength and over-distance work; making the Great Britain team for the World Championships on eight consecutive occasions – her best being 19th in the 2004 short-course event.

Such versatility saw Clitheroe win a dancing event in her home-town in 2008, where she had to learn the Quick-step and Samba in just six-weeks; raising £1,300 for charity in the process.

Believing she had reached a plateau with her speed, Clitheroe turned to the 3,000m steeplechase in 2007 and placed ninth in the World indoor Championships the following spring. With refreshed passion in her new event, she went on to set a British record of 9:29.14 in the Beijing Olympics but failed to qualify for the final by a mere one placing.

Finishing ninth in her heat and missing the final again; this time at the World outdoor Championships in Berlin last summer, encouraged Clitheroe to return to the metric mile but even she did not expect such success.

A need for speed

Upon joining World 800m bronze-medallist Jenny Meadow’s husband and coach, Trevor Painter’s training group in Wigan, Clitheroe found her need – and passion – for speed was rejuvenated; as were her track times.

Training alongside Meadows; who went on to claim World indoor 800m silver in Doha, Clitheroe has found immediate success after going back to her roots. She kicked off the indoor season with a 9:05.87 3,000m victory at the Aviva Glasgow international, shortly followed by the UK indoor 1,500m title in Sheffield.

Keen to test her re-energized speed against a world-class field, Clitheroe progressed to seventh in the Birmingham international Grand-Prix with 4:29.46 for the mile, before finishing eighth in the global championships.

A revitalised Clitheroe explained: “Doha was the most brilliant atmosphere to run in, I wish I had been closer to the pack because I had such a strong finish. That shows me that I am reasonably competitive in this world-class field. I always want more and that race has given me confidence, shown me I have got speed and that kick for the end.”

Needed a change

Evidently in fine form in her twilight years on the track, Clitheroe commented on her 2010 season: “I have really enjoyed competing indoors this winter, I have enjoyed stepping back down to my original event of the 1500m and am delighted to have been as competitive as I have been through the season."

On her new coach and training partner, Clitheroe continued: “I have thoroughly enjoyed training with Trevor since October; it was a time in my career where I felt a change was needed and the opportunity to train with a coach locally was very appealing to me.

It is amazing to be able to train with Jenny, we have been friends for a few years now and share a lot of the same values when it come to our athletics so it works very well training together for both of us.”

Feeling strong

After a short break, Clitheroe’s aims for the year to compete in the steeplechase at the European Championships in Barcelona in July and to tackle her fourth Commonwealth Games in New Delhi in October: “I would be extremely proud to achieve this,” she explained.

Such championships occur every four years; highlighting Citheroe’s longevity at the top of the sport: “I am very proud to have competed for GB and England as many times as I,” she revealed. I would never have believed in 1998 when I did my first World Cross country that I would be able to have such a long career.

The standout moments are winning the European cup in 2000 in Gateshead, getting my bronze medal at the Manchester Commonwealths was awesome, too and also getting to two Olympics in different events.”

“I feel I am strong and still in very good shape. I have to respect my age but am still doing the training I would have been doing a few years ago and am able to cope with it. I might feel the need to stretch a bit more now!”

Monday, 15 March 2010

One lap wonder


As a youngster, he was a prodigious talent who swiftly turned into an Olympic finalist when barely out of his teens and now, over recent injury woes, 400m man Martyn Rooney is preparing for a big year, writes Nicola Bamford.

The past two seasons have been polar opposites for 22-year-old Rooney. 2008 saw the Croydon Harrier unbeaten in eleven straight races before the Beijing Olympics; where at aged 21, he clocked a scintillating 44.60 in his semi-final and went on to place sixth in the final.

He also ran a breath-taking 43.73 to anchor home Team GB in fourth in the 4x400m relay. They were the performances dreams were made of and which still send shivers down Rooney’s spine.

Eager to capitalise on such phenomenal form with the 2012 Olympics fast-approaching, the following year however, was certainly one to forget. Rooney; coached by Nick Dakin at the Loughborough High-Performance Centre, suffered an injury-ravaged season, though he still managed to place seventh in the semi-final stage at the World Championships in Berlin and collect relay silver. 2009 though, was still a very disappointing year by Rooney’s standards:

Months of rehab

“I had a rubbish time,” explained the former European and World junior medallist. “I went from the form of my life to getting injured in the twitch of a muscle during a race preparation session in LA where we had been training.

“I had a grade-two tear of 5cm in my left Biceps Femoris. It was a really bad time for me as I really felt that I could have won an individual medal at the world’s and ran close to 44.0. I tried to convince myself that I was still going to run very fast and got frustrated when I didn't.”

Months of rehab followed for the 6ft 5 speedster, who lives with his partner; the British pole-vault record-holder Kate Dennison, and now Rooney is back stronger than ever, brimming with confidence and eager to pull on his racing spikes and to hit the track.

Training motoring along

With the European Championships in Barcelona this summer, Rooney hopes to return to his 2008 form when he makes his senior continental championship debut and it is because of this that he chose to focus on training hard rather than targeting the World indoors in Doha last weekend, like the majority of Team GB:

“I'm feeling great. Training has been difficult this year, as I’ve been working on strengthening my hamstrings which has been tedious and frustrating, as it has affected my running. Thankfully I've completed all of that work now and training is now motoring along massively!” explained Rooney.

“During the winter, very few of the top 400m runners will compete indoors and the 400m is such a tough event; you need a longer winter to really get the best out of the summer. 2010 is going to be an interesting year - in Barcelona, all the top guys will be very close on personal bests but I have beaten all of them on numerous occasions so I think I'm going to have a good chance of success.”

‘Awesome training group’

The man who broke Roger Black’s national junior record when sprinting to 45.35 aged just 18, when placing fifth in the 2006 Commonwealth final, is in the best environment for achieving such goals, too.

In the East-Midlands university campus, Rooney trains daily with a collection of British and Irish international one-lap medallists and thrives under such fierce yet friendly competition:

“Our group is awesome,” he explained. “Every session, you have to really step to the plate otherwise you'll get torn apart! This keeps me on my toes and gets the best out of my training.

“We spent a month is South Africa this January, and we will spend the same amount of time in California in April. The facilities at Loughborough are world-class and the support from UKA and the EIS (English Institute of Sport) we receive is unbelievable. We are very fortunate and thankful.”

Golden age for Brits

Sponsored by Nike and managed by Joe Rafferty of InMotionSport, Rooney is well aware of the upward curve his event has experienced in his absence from top-shape but his eyes remain firmly on the prize:

“I think British 400m running is coming into a golden age with Michael Bingham, Andrew Steele, Chris Clarke and I heading towards 44-lows; the British and European records are up for grabs.

“My long term goal is the same as most athletes, win an Olympic gold medal. When I finish athletics I want to retire knowing I pushed myself as hard as I could and done the best I physically could.”

Those are certainly the post-injury words of a determined man, who may well return to global status quicker than imagined.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Lightning Bolt


Whilst the best track and field athletes in the world prepare for this weekend’s World indoor Championships in Doha, arguably the globe’s finest ever athlete; Usain Bolt is training hard for more assaults on his own world sprint records this summer. Nicola Bamford spoke to the Jamaican superstar about his manic schedule and ongoing quest to become a legend...

For 23-year-old Bolt, global supremacy is a familiar, pre-destined territory. Each major championship performance in the past two-years has brought unprecedented brilliance and has led many to question how far off the limit this sprinting phenomenon must be.

Following a hectic winter full of media, charity, awards, sponsorship and ambassadorial engagements, most would not have been surprised if the double Olympic and World 100m and 200m champion and record-holder had started 2010 in lacklustre fashion.

Sizzling 400m form

But then again, this is Bolt we’re talking about; the 6ft5 mischievous speed demon who has not only revolutionised athletics but also world sport with his laid-back, science-defying ability which has captured the hearts of the sporting public.

The triple Olympic champion has started his 2010 campaign where he finished off last year; in sizzling form. A couple of 400m races for over-distance work recently saw Bolt speed to a 45.86 and 45.38 (relay) clocking, respectively, in his homeland for the Racers Track Club based in Kingston – interestingly, his swiftest season-openers to date.

Coached by Glen Mills on the tiny Caribbean nation, Bolt revealed on his current form: “We (the club) just went out to have fun. It wasn’t about proving anything; it was about having fun.

Getting ready for summer

It is this fun-going attitude that has attracted more fans and publicity for the sport. What started off as rousing the (very few) critics with his seemingly less-professional manner on the track has turned into a popular style of behaviour for athletes on the international circuit; with fans around the world copying his famous ‘lightning Bolt’ pose.

“That is my personality,” Bolt explained. “I don’t think it helps me to run fast if I am nervous and tense so I just be myself. People seem to like it so I have kept doing it.”

Managed by Ricky Simms of PACE Sports management (UK) and Norman Peart (JAM),
Bolt continued: “Training is going well. I had a lot of engagements and functions to attend before Christmas so I was a bit behind in my schedule but now I am in hard training to get ready for the summer. I don’t enjoy the long-distance work in the winter but it is necessary to build a good endurance base.

“I took one month completely off training (after the Berlin World’s last August) but I was playing a lot of football and cricket so I kept fit. I also had a big charity party (in honour of his 9.58 world-record in Berlin) in Jamaica with a lot of the top Jamaican artists.”

Prefer the 100 and 200m

Such scintillating early-season form in the wake of such much- deserved celebration and in an event he does not even train specifically for, has understandably led to fans questioning the date of when Bolt will move up to the distance.

Indeed, one of his biggest admirers and Bolt’s idol to boot; American former world 200m record-holder, Michael Johnson – has suggested such a move would bring further global success and if he trained hard enough, also bring the world 400m best.

Bolt though, is not taken by move just yet: “I will probably run 400m in the future but not for a few years; I prefer to run 100m and 200m,” he revealed.

No limits

Indeed, it is the shorter sprints that have provided such outstanding performances from the young Jamaican who aptly adopted a cheetah last summer.

Bolt explained the performances that saw him named the 2008 and 2009 IAAF male athlete of the year and receive a special Olympic reward:

“My 2008 and 2009 seasons were great. I achieved great things and hope to continue doing well. The Olympic Games was very special, as it is the biggest event for athletes and the whole world is watching. The stadium in Beijing was amazing and I also love to run in New York and London, as there are a lot of Jamaicans in the crowd.

“I enjoyed breaking the 200m world-record in Beijing. I had been working for this all my life and was delighted to finally get it. I don’t want to set a limit (on how fast he can go) but the 200m is my favourite event.”

Book deal and head-to-heads

Though Bolt remains firmly focused on the events that brought him the 9.58 and 19.19 global bests last year, new experiences this year are set to appear for the world’s fastest man.

First, the release of an illustrated book, detailing his global domination this autumn – with a full-length biography set to come out after the 2012 London Olympics – and secondly, the inaugural IAAF Diamond League competition this summer.

Organisers of the world governing body are keen to pitch Bolt against the few fellow athletes around that can finish within a few strides of the affable superstar in much-wanted head-to-heads.

Bolt is relishing the prospect: “The IAAF Diamond League should be great. Sprinting is very strong at the moment. Everyone is talking about where and when Tyson (Gay, USA), Asafa (Powell, JAM) and I will race. It’s going to be fun.”

Becoming a legend

More fun is in store for the 2009 Laureus Sportsman of the Year tonight, as Bolt hopes to retain his prestigious title at the Abu Dhabi awards ceremony for his exploits in Berlin.

Long-term, he has aspirations of continuing his domination with lightning-quick times and with no major championships for Bolt this year, he can focus on purely just that.

On and off the track, the great man explained: “I would like to become a legend in the sport. To do this I need to retain my Olympic and World titles in 2011 and 2012. After my career, I would like to retire and own a business in Jamaica, though I’m not sure what type of business yet.”

Whatever Bolt touches seems to turn to gold and you can guarantee that he likes to cause a storm around it.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

New Chapter


After years of turmoil on and off the track, Dwain Chambers has returned stronger and faster than ever to where he belongs; the British number-one slot. Nicola Bamford spoke to the sprinter ahead of the World indoor Championships where he hopes to bag 60m gold in a year which he dubs as his ‘new chapter’...

For 31-year-old Chambers; who competes for Belgrave Harriers, his recent athletic success and new-found scintillating form is all the more special, following the trials and negative backlash he faced from the sport last decade.

Hot contender

Time though, is a healer and now ‘Team Dwain’, the public and even his former foe; the press have noted his positive change since serving his two-year competition ban for taking performance-enhancing drugs; and in 2010, the former world 100m bronze-medallist again sits as a hot contender for global glory.

Following his UK indoor Championship and world trials 60m victory in a (at the time) world-leading 6.50 in Sheffield last month, Chambers is in confident mood ahead of the biggest event of the season in Doha, Qatar from March 12th-14th:

“I never take anything for granted. Anything can happen in Championships. I am in great shape physically and mentally and my aim is to convert that into a series of good performances,” Chambers explained.


“I had a calf strain coming out of the Worlds (last summer, where he finished sixth in the 100m), but recovered well and have been training hard. I am very happy with my preparation for this season. More importantly for me, the crowds were fantastic (in Sheffield); very supportive and it was a great day all round.”

Coached by Daniel Plummer; another 100m man and based at the Lee Valley athletics centre in London, support from those closest to him is one of the main reasons Chambers is back to his best. The European indoor 60m record-holder has had the voluntary assistance of Siza Agha; a criminal barrister with a passion for sport and the unwavering love of his partner and two young sons:

“Leonie is my soul mate and rock,” Chambers explained. “Rocco and Skye are my soul. My family mean everything to me. The feeling I had in Sheffield will stay with me, it really feels like a new chapter, new hope and belief. Very positive from the public, the competitors and the press,” Chambers revealed.

Leading the way

Competing and leading arguably Britain’s toughest athletics event, Chambers enjoys a rich camaraderie with his fellow rivals:

“The other guys have been very supportive and I always help them where I can. Mark (Lewis-Francis) was really down after the trials and I gave him a few words of encouragement; he will be back. I was also really touched by what Harry (Aikines Aryeetey) said after Sheffield in the press. There are a number of great British sprinters coming through and I have to be at my best to stay ahead of them.”

Chambers is used to leading the way too, as he has spent the past few seasons as the undisputed king of British sprinting. Bouncing back from disappointment in 2008 due to an Olympic ban, he took the European indoor title and made the global outdoor championship final despite a Euromeetings ban inhibiting his quality races, to mark his return to top-flight athletics with a bang:

“2009 was a hard season for me and a bit of roller coaster,” Chambers explained. “Turin (European indoors) was a real high and the world Championships (in Berlin) were a disappointing low. In between, I had to make the most of the situation I was in and prepare as best possible - my preparation was not ideal.”

Second chance

Chambers though, prefers to look past the frustration and forward to the future. Together with Plummer, he runs ‘Chambers of Sport’; an academy to inspire children to get involved in sport and maximise their personal potential:

“Chambers of Sport has two aims: firstly, to provide a support structure for elite athletes. Being an athlete is a lonely and isolating experience and it is important to get support from people like myself who have experienced that feeling and been able to pull through. Secondly, it is for people who need a second chance in life, through the use of sport,” Chambers explained.

Chambers’ own second chance on the track is intriguing, considering he is as quick as he was ten-years ago:

“I am more mature and mentally much stronger. Sprinting is as much mental as it is physical. I am totally focussed on my sprinting” Chambers revealed. “I am feeling really positive about my athletics and enjoying competing again. I readily accept that I have made my fair share of mistakes but 2010 is a new season with new goals. It’s an exciting time for me.”

Realistic aspirations

Exciting times they are indeed for the speed demon who names double Olympic champion and world-record-holder, Usain Bolt as well as Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell as the rivals he admires and relishes the opportunity to race against the most.

Chambers; who trains alone to simulate a race situation, additionally recognises that another rival; former Olympic 100m champion, Justin Gatlin will also have his own issues when he returns to competitive action after a four-year drugs ban later this year – but Chambers is evidently solely focused on looking after number-one.

Previously known for his bold predicaments - such as aiming for a world-record of 9.65 in 2003 and ‘project Bolt’ last year, Chambers is now more realistic in his aspirations for 2010; a year in which he should take the European (Barcelona, July) and Commonwealth (New Delhi, October)outdoor titles:

“My race schedule for 2010 will be more organised, planned and structured around the major championships. I may do some 200’s, but my main focus is the 100m,” he revealed.


In addition to collecting more silverware this year, it is as clear as the shiny gold tooth at the top of his mouth that Chambers yearns for top international contests and global glory when the opportunity presents itself in 2011 (Daegu, South Korea):

“I hope that I will get the chance to compete against the best sprinters in the world,” Chambers explained. “The athletics world has not yet seen the best of Dwain Chambers in sprinting terms; I hope that in 2010, I will be given the opportunity to put right the mistakes, be recognised for my athletics and perform well on the track. I still have a few more years left in the sport and want to look forward and make the most of it.

“I want to be recognised, accepted and remembered for my achievements on the track. It’s a chapter I am starting to write this year.” A very exciting chapter it is

Monday, 1 March 2010

Saucony English National cross-country Championships REPORT - Feb 27th, 2010, Roundhay Park, Leeds


The Saucony English National cross-country Championships staged its’ 134th edition in Roundhay Park, Leeds last weekend; where cold, muddy and hilly conditions greeted the nation’s best mud-larks in a thrilling days’ action of distance-running, writes Nicola Bamford.

Returning to the north Yorkshire city for the first time since 2004, the event witnessed plenty of surprises as well as results following the rule-book. Here are the pick of the day’s performances...

Senior men

Aldershot, Farnham and District’s Andy Vernon put in a dominating display to show his varied credentials, following a short yet impressive indoor season. The 24-year-old recently took the UK indoor 3,000m title in Sheffield and clocked the qualifying time for the World indoor Championships and his equally-impressive form on the country saw him improve on his bronze medal-winning run from last year, here in Roundhay Park.

To the fore of the field from the offset with Steve Vernon, Moumin Geele, Neilson Hall, Pete Riley and Ricky Stevenson, Vernon forged on with only Geele for company in the second half over the testing 12km route and showed a comfortable turn of speed in the final 800m to sprint away for his first senior national title, with a nine-second winning margin.

The victor revealed: “I’m been keeping up with the high mileage so the indoors has been a bonus for preparation to go to America this summer. I definitely came here to win – I thought I’d have the upper hand with my speed for the finish and in the end, I managed to cruise in, so now I’m hoping for another gold at the UK Inter-Counties (March 13th in Birmingham).”

Geele; the 23-year-old Somalian-born Newham and Essex Beagles runner, surprised the field to return to competition in such top form, after not competing since finishing second in the European trials last November.

Fifth in last year’s event, Geele said: “The race went off very slowly but it was very good for me. I’m very happy to get a medal. I’m going to Kenya for a month’s training tomorrow (Feb 28th) to prepare for the track season. I want to make the GB team for the 10,000m at the European Championships.”

Stockport’s 29-year-old Steve Vernon was hoping to cap off his fine comeback season since injury but following an untimely cold in the lead-up, he found himself on his own for much of the race as it progressed but still comfortably finished only ten-seconds adrift in third place, ahead of Neilson Hall and training partner, Pete Riley.

Runner-up last year and third in 2009, Vernon explained: “I didn’t feel great to be honest. I felt fast from the start but when Andy and Moumin went off at the first Hill 60, I just couldn’t go with it. I tried to battle back but couldn’t close the gap on my own. I’m disappointed but I ran as hard as I could and that was only good enough for third. I’d like to make the World cross so let’s see what happens.”
Senior women

Three-time European junior cross-country Champion and Olympic 1500m runner, Steph Twell collected her first senior national title with consummate ease. The 20-year-old AFD athlete followed up some fine performances on the European international circuit with an easy fifteen-second victory here.

Joined by Stevie Stockton, Faye Fullerton, Hatti Dean and Victoria Wilkinson for the first half of the race, Twell then stretched out in the latter stages to prevail over Stockton and Dean, respectively.

Twell said: “I’m thrilled to win my first senior national – it’s an amazing feeling and the support was great. I felt dominant and strong – I raced sensibly and started steadily to respect the course and my opposition so that worked for my advantage. I made a gap and stayed controlled through the mud and then got an added lift when I passed the AFD supporters. I want to win the Inter-Counties and make the World cross team.”

An equally-elated Stockton (20, Vale Royal AC) revealed: “That race was really unexpected. I’ve been saying for ages that I can’t manage 8km. I felt really rubbish this week with a cold so I had to really ease down on the training so I think that really helped. I took my time and felt really comfortable and came through strongly – I smiled all the way across the line, as it’s my first senior cross.”

Reigning champion Hatti Dean (28, Hallamshire Harriers) ran strongly for third place, following her victory in the Northern Championships; coming in five-seconds behind.
Dean said: “I’m really happy with my race – how I ran and how much I got out of myself. It was a really tough race and good to be involved with other girls running really well. It was good to race closely with Stevie and Faye and I’m looking forward to the Inter-Counties now.”

Junior men

European under-20 cross-country silver and bronze medallists, Nick Goolab and James Wilkinson went head to head over the 10km junior men’s event, with Belgrave’s 20-year-old Goolab; the 2009 winner, prevailing by sixteen-seconds.

Pulling clear of Wilkinson, Ronnie Sparke, Jonny Hay and Ben Norris, Goolab strode out to a 100m-lead at the half-way stage which he never relinquished.

After retaining his title, Goolab said: “My tactics were spot on and when I hit the front, I pushed it as hard as I could to make it hurt. I just managed to relax and open up a good gap and stretch out comfortably. I was looking at the trophy the other day and I realised only five people before me have managed to retain this title. It’s good to end my cross season and junior races on a high.”

Leeds AC’s nineteen-year-old Wilkinson; the Northern Champion revealed: “It went well but I was on my own for two of the three laps. I let Nick get away and I couldn’t catch him no matter how hard I tried. I am a bit disappointed but I still ran well. I didn’t run it smart. I’m hoping for top-15 in the senior race at the Inter-Counties.”

Six-seconds adrift in third-place was Notts AC’s 18-year-old Ben Norris: “I started steadily and I enjoyed it by working my way through. It was a proper cross-country course and great to get stuck in. I thought I may have gone off too steadily at first but I kept working my way through and had lots to give. I would have been satisfied with top-ten so I’m glad I’ve finally proved I can get a medal. Now I’d like to give the World trials a serious crack.”

Junior women

In the first edition of the Championships with the junior women separated from the under-17 category, Exeter’s Jo Harvey went one better than in 2008 to capture the title. The 20-year-old took a four-second victory over European under-20 cross-country bronze-medallist, Kate Avery.

Sprinting away from the 18-year-old Shildon AC athlete in the final 200m, Harvey said after contesting the 6km course: “I started really slow and stuck in the group and felt really good. It’s my last junior race so it’s nice to come back after injury and I hope to consolidate last years’ form in the Inter-Counties in two-weeks’ time.”

Avery; runner-up in 2009 also said: “It went very well but I just couldn’t close the gap near the end. I felt strong and was happy with my tactics. I hope to make top-6 in the trials but who knows, as there’s so many great girls.”

Another four-seconds separated silver from the bronze-medallist; Hannah Walker (18, Dacorum and Tring AC).

Under-17 men

Southern Champion, Richard Goodman blasted away to a thirty-four second victory over the 6km route in the under-17 men’s race. The 16-year-old Shaftesbury Barnet Harrier capitalised on his magnificent European trials under-20 win and fifth-place in the continental Championships at the end of last year with victory here; making up for second place in the 2009 event.

Running with Tom Curr (17, Stroud and District AC) for company for the first half of the race, third place went to Robbie Farnham-Rose (16, Tonbridge AC) – a mere one-second behind.

A satisfied Goodman explained: “It was a superb race. I really enjoyed it. I was so nervous before as there was so much pressure on me. Mostly I’ve been running as an under-20, like in the European trials and then Championships. I was thinking to myself, ‘do I want to get the train back down to London without the gold medal?’ so that really inspired me to kick on. That hill was really disgusting, it’s almost vertical. As they say, it sorts the boys from the men. My coach got my training bang on; 95% of my success is down to him. My main target in life is to run in the World cross-country so we’ll see how the trials go.”

Under-17 women

AFD’s 16-year-old Emelia Gorecka continued her imperative form to retain her under-17 women’s title and gain her third-consecutive national victory.

The Southern cross and World schools’ 3000m Champion sped over the 5km course to win by half a minute from team-mate Ruth Haynes (16) and Bedford and County’s Emily Wallbank (16) fifteen-seconds further back.

Gorecka revealed: “I really enjoyed it; it’s an awesome course. I felt great so kept pushing. I’m really lucky to be surrounded by such a great training group; it’s a fantastic set-up down there. I’m looking forward to the Inter-Counties and hopefully my training will help me there, but it’s more for experience, as I haven’t had much against the under-20’s. I don’t want to get my hopes up too high for making the junior GB team.

Under-15 boys

St Albans AC’s 15-year-old James McMurray prevailed by two-seconds in the 4.5km contest over Matthew McLaughlin (15, Shaftesbury Barnett Harriers) and Adam Howard (14, Oldham and Royton Harriers AC) six-seconds adrift in an exciting contest.

McMurray said: “It went well and to my plan. The start was quite fast but then we slowed for the hill but then I kept my speed until the finish. My main rivals were from the south today. I now want to keep fit for the English schools’ and Inter-Counties.”

Under-15 girls

Fifteen-year-old Jessica Judd (Chelmsford AC) created a 15m-lead on the first lap which she extended over the 4km event to improve on last year’s third-place by winning here.

The Southern Champion won by twenty-seven seconds from Winchester and District AC’s Rebecca Knapton (14) and Chelmsford’s fourteen-year-old Sophie Riches, who was two-seconds further back.

Judd said: “I kicked only a minute into the race then wondered whether I’d gone off too fast so I think I might have died. I knew it would be a tough race so thought I’d go off fast to get away. I really went for it. I hope to figure in the Inter-Counties and English schools next.”

Under-13 boys

Tonbridge AC’s thirteen-year-old George Duggan took the under-13 boy’s race by six-seconds from Jack Crabtree (13, East Cheshire) and Isle of Wight’s Tom Newnham (13); the Southern Champion coming home three-seconds adrift.

The winner revealed: “That was the hardest race of my life! It was an amazing race! I just tried to relax and stride out into the finish. My aim was top-five and today was my first time doing the nationals. Next, I’m doing the English schools and Inter-Counties.”

Under-13 girls

One of the most over-awed winners of the day was Bracknell AC’s eleven-year-old Hope Goddard. Fourteen in the Southern Championships and with an aim of finishing in the top-20, she started off in around 150th yet took the win by four-seconds.
Surrounded by her ecstatic mother and coach, Goddard; whose sister, Grace finished fourth, won from Northern winner, Bethany Donnelly (12, East Cheshire AC) and Becca Croft (12, WSEH); the Southern victor.

Goddard gasped: “I’m very happy. I just tried to catch up people and I kept my pace until I heard my coach and family shout when I had 200m to go so I sprinted.”