AN ANGRY Dwain Chambers lost his cool after crashing out in the 60 metres heats to sour an impressive first day for Great Britain’s athletes, including Scotland’s Laura Muir and Eilidh Child, at the European Indoor Championships in Gothenburg.
The red mist descended as the clearly-unfit sprinter stormed off the track when he could only finish fifth in the opening round at the Scandinavium Arena. The veteran sprinter, who has struggled with a back problem which forced him to miss last month’s trials, lacked his customary power as he came home in 6.78 seconds. That was way down on the 34-year-old former drug cheat’s best this season of 6.58secs and, with the top four in each heat advancing to the semi-finals, not even quick enough for a fastest loser spot after every athlete in the third and final heat went quicker than him.
A visibly furious Chambers, the defending silver medallist and European record holder, stormed through the mixed zone afterwards, not stopping to talk to the media, having already angrily discarded his shirt and shoes. It is the first time since 2007 that he has failed to win an indoor medal at either world or European level.
Speaking later after his frustration had subsided, Chambers said: “The performance was not what I expected and I can only express my disappointment because a lot of time and effort was put into me getting to these championships and I want to apologise to the people whose time I feel I have wasted. I came here with all the intention to do well and fight for a medal, which is always what I have been renowned for doing, but the injury took more out of me than I had anticipated. So with that I’m really disappointed and feel bad for letting people down.
“There was no pain. I think I spent all my time getting ready to get on the plane injury-free and I didn’t prioritise my time to prepare for the championships. I thought I was going to be all right, but that was the wrong process I’d put myself into - I just wasn’t ready. I’m disappointed that I’ve let people down.
“In situations like these where you want to do well, you expect to do well and people expect you to do well...it hurts. I know what I’m capable of doing and it is disappointing that I am not able to do that today. Now I’m just going to cheer on the rest of the team.”
With 800m runner Michael Rimmer the only other athlete to make an early exit – he kept his temper in check – a host of other Britons showed their medal credentials, although Olympic high jump bronze medallist Robbie Grabarz only scraped into the final.
Grabarz only managed a clearance of 2.23m, well down on his best this year of 2.31m, failing all three attempts at 2.28m.
Perri Shakes-Drayton was impressive in the 400m, leading from the gun to win her heat in 51.70. Team-mate Eilidh Child used the same tactics to win her heat in 52.05, while Shana Cox also advanced. All three British men also made the semi-finals of the 400m, with Nigel Levine, Michael Bingham and Richard Strachan third, fourth and fifth fastest overall respectively.
Holly Bleasdale, the gold medal favourite in the pole vault, survived a shaky start to comfortably qualify with a 4.56m clearance. Shara Proctor also reached the long jump final with her first attempt of 6.61m.
Team captain Jenny Meadows, the defending champion who was racing for only the second time in 18 months after an Achilles injury wrote off her 2012 season, reached the 800m semi-finals. In the men’s event, Mukhtar Mohammed and Joe Thomas won their heats, but Rimmer went out after coming home third.
In Chambers’ absence, Harry Aikines-Aryeetey and James Dasaolu will represent Britain in the 60m semi-finals. Nineteen-year-old Laura Muir made it into the 1500m final, while Yamile Aldama, 21 years older, qualified for the triple jump final.