WHEN Allan Wells lined up in his pomp at Meadowbank for the East of Scotland Championships, a certain frisson loitered in the Edinburgh air.
The internal duel to be the lord of the manor ensured the 1980 Olympic champion could rarely rest on his laurels, even among familiar company. It was, he admitted, the perfect simulation for the rigours of the global stage.
Now, another crop of sprinters is scrapping for superiority at home and abroad. And with four among their number confirmed yesterday in the 100 metres line-up for next week’s Sainsbury’s Grand Prix in Glasgow, the tension might cultivate the ideal ambience to finally wipe Ben Johnson’s all-comers record of 10.07 seconds from the books.
Not before time, Wells proclaims. British champion Dwain Chambers is slated to face James Dasaolu – who ran 9.91 seconds last summer – at the Diamond League leg on 11 July with world indoor champion Richard Kilty and Harry Aikines-Aryeetey also in the mix.
Friction has been reported between their various camps in Loughborough and the summit of the British scene is further crowded by the recent ascent of 20-year-old Chijindu Ujah. Such tension, 62-year-old Wells declares, will only serve to stoke their personal fires.
“It’s very competitive for these lads,” he said. “They’re going to compete off each other and we know putting the groups against each other will be a healthy situation. It will only enhance their ability to run the 100 and 200 metres.
“In a way we had that at Meadowbank. I joined the professional system they had and it worked for me straight away. We were quite gentlemanly towards each other but that was because we knew we were in the better group. But we had five guys who’d run 10.4 or better and that was healthy.”
Absent from the Hampden bill is Usain Bolt, the six-time Olympic champion remaining only a provisional entrant for the subsequent Commonwealth Games with Jamaica still to confirm whether he will be included in their sprint relay squad.
There has been little evidence that Bolt is desperately pushing for a place. Wells, who personally lobbied his fellow gold medallist to take part, confesses his disappointment at the stance but there are myriad factors at play within Bolt PLC.
“I was never going to impact on whether he was coming,” he said. “I suppose if I’d offered him a million quid, he might have. I think it’s a situation where he’s a lot going on. It’s like being in the boxing ring. If you get hammered, you have to start again and pick yourself up. It’s difficult. For me, he’s a human being. Like Muhammad Ali, people thought he was invincible. But you have age coming into it. You’ve only got so long.”
British champion Asha Philip will face the USA’s Carmelita Jeter and Jamaica’s Verena Sailor in the women’s 100m at the Diamond League.