Having today competed in his first race on UK soil since hearing the news that his Olympic dream could still be alive, sprinter Dwain Chambers has declared his relief after receiving a positive reception from the British public and fans of the sport, writes Nicola Bamford.
The 34-year-old 100m specialist finished second in the 150m event at the annual Great Manchester CityGames behind two-time World 200m bronze-medallist Wallace Spearman of the USA in 15.27 to the victor’s 14.87, whilst British 150m record-holder Marlon Devonish was third with 15.37.
Admitting the racing experience on home turf left him with a feeling of relief, Chambers – who was recently declared fit to attempt qualification for this summer’s London Olympic Games following an original lifetime ban after a doping expansion dating back to 2003 – laid his emotions bare in a honest post-race stint with reporters:
“Today was a great feeling – I wasn’t sure what kind of reception I was going to get and I got a good one so I’m happy,” he said.
“It was a lot of fun and a great atmosphere – being able to compete in front of a home crowd has been the missing piece in my puzzle for so long and having them so close was a great idea, so it was a nice experience.”
Clocking a 10.26 100m split during his exertions, the London-based runner continued:
“I’ll take that time - I’m in good shape and I’m better than the 10.52 (which he recorded in Puerto Rico last weekend) - dancing at the start was unusual for me yet it made it fun but I probably won’t do it next to (world 100m and 200m record-holder Usain) Bolt anytime!
“The crowd seemed genuine so I hope to continue to receive that kind of reception throughout the summer - I was scared beforehand to be honest.”
Comparing his days’ work to a somewhat cathartic experience, the father of two – with a 100m best of 9.97 from the 1999 season, where he took world 100m bronze - will face Bolt in Ostrava on Friday in a long-awaited return to the global international outdoor circuit.
A bronze medallist over 60m from March’s World indoor Championships in Turkey, Chambers explained:
“It will be a massive difference - the level of competition I’ve been running at for the last few years well, you’ve got to compete against the highest quality of athletes in order to be amongst the best.
“Now those opportunities are available to me, I’ve got to get my mind in a different mindset, going up against guys who are 9.8 runners and I haven’t been in that calibre for a long time.
“So I’ve got to make my mind sharp, get my moves quicker – the intensity increases, the pressure increases and your expectations increase as well - I’m looking forward to racing the fastest in the world more often now.”
Now working as an anti-drugs campaigner in schools in between his training, racing and travelling commitments, Chambers continued:
“I’m optimistic and happy but I can’t take for granted what I’ve had to endure because of my actions.
“It takes a bit of time (to digest and improve) – I had a lot of weight on my shoulders before so now that’s been lifted, I need to find something else to draw off and that’s what makes it difficult.”
Admitting that he has recently started seeing a sports psychologist in order to mentally recover from his Olympic fate upheaval, the UK indoor 60m and UK outdoor 100m champion revealed:
“It’s definitely helping – I turned it down for a long time but boy, do I need it.
“I’ve taken it upon myself since I’ve been back (from training with former 100m world record-holder Asafa Powell in Jamaica) and it’s important for me – externally I look fine but internally it’s tough.
“I keep relaxed, socialising with the athletes and walking the streets to get a feel for how the public are with me but all those worries were put to one side once the crowd were cheering me on the start-line, it made it more relaxing for me to do my job.”
Still ranked as the second-fastest British man of all-time, Chambers is understandably relieved to now have the chance to qualify for Team GB ahead of Augusts’ Olympic cauldron.
A former World and European indoor 60m champion, Chambers is unlikely to approach the form which saw him speed to a fourth-place finish in the 100m final in the 2004 Athens Games but he appears content at just having the opportunity to attend after missing the 2008 edition:
“A lot of people have said you must be over the moon but this is a road we’ve been travelling for nine years and I didn’t know what emotions I’ll be going through – it still hasn’t sunk in yet,” he explained.
“So for something to be going on for nine years, I can’t expect it to be normal after just two weeks – my kids haven’t got a clue what’s going on – they’re too young to understand but they’ve given me the boost to go out and perform.
“Today’s been a special day for me – I was nervous about the reception but it turned out really well - I’m just trying to get on with the athletes and do the best I can to perform.
“No chance did I ever think this time would come - it’s been hard mentally and I’m very grateful to have the chance to do my best in front of a home crowd – that’s something I’ve been waiting for a long time.
“I believe the momentum is definitely changing – my mind is at ease now – that’s one of the main things that was making it difficult to perform, you need a clear mind to perform but now I’ve got a free mind so I can concentrate on running and enjoy it.”
Assuming he qualifies for the British squad at the Olympic trials in Birmingham next month, Chambers – who was disqualified for a false-start in the semi-final stage of the World outdoor Championships last summer - continued:
“Once I can hopefully qualify for the team, that’s when it will all set in.
“I’m still on a rollercoaster, trying to find my feet and preparing for competitions I never expected to be in - now that I’ve got them, I’m enthusiastic, I’m feeling like a little kid again, I mean I’m 34!
“It’s nice to just be able to concentrate on one thing, running and I’d like my kids to come to watch in London – it will be a milestone in my career.”