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Last Updated: Monday, 12 June 2006, 07:08 GMT 08:08 UK
Steve Cram on Powell & Chambers

Steve Cram
By Steve Cram
BBC Sport commentator

We are all thinking it but we dare not say it - if Asafa Powell makes equalling a world record look so easy who knows how fast he can really go?

Powell is such a lovely looking runner it seems effortless and it is almost impossible to believe that he cannot go faster than the 9.77 seconds he ran at the British Grand Prix.

Asafa Powell on his way to his equalling the world record in Gateshead
Poetry in motion - easy does it for Powell as he clocks 9.77secs

It was a great meeting in Gateshead and if Powell had simply delivered a sub-10 second run then everyone would have been happy.

But equalling the world record, well that was something else and, even as a commentator, you don't get many chances to watch a great performance like that.

The Gateshead track is not very fast (Dwain Chambers held the previous track record of 10.05, but more of him later) and Powell was pretty much racing against himself and the clock.

I just wonder whether the 23-year-old is the sort of athlete who is able to produce more speed, the more relaxed he is.

When he does not have a serious rival up against him, when he is sure he can win then he runs easily.

The pressure was on him at the Commonwealth Games to win his first individual gold medal and he looked very tight in Melbourne, even though he won by a mile.

Justin Gatlin will probably be thinking Powell has yet to prove himself on the big occasion

He broke the record for the first time at a small meet in Athens last year and maybe those kind of race conditions are what suit him best. The pressure off, nobody to threaten him and he can run nice and smoothly.

However, you have to remember world records are not easy and it would be wrong to get carried away with Powell's pace.

Yes, when I broke the 1500m world record in Oslo way back in 1985 people said it looked simple. It was on the night but I still ran as hard as I could.

Sometimes when you are on top of your game, as Powell is, you make it look easy.

What will Justin Gatlin, who shares the world record with the Jamaican, think now?

Well, it is one thing setting world records but it is an entirely different challenge to win Olympic and World titles, which Powell has yet to do.

Gatlin, the reigning Olympic 100m and world 100m and 200m champion, will probably be thinking Powell still has to prove himself on the big occasion.

It is fantastic for the sport to have two athletes trading world records in an event where we are used to having to wait quite some time between records.

While athletics needs Powell and Gatlin, where will Britain's prodigal sprinter Dwain Chambers fit in?

According to the rules, Chambers has served his two-year ban for doping and now has every right to compete.

Just as he fell off the world stage three years ago, Chambers finds himself climbing right back on to it

I had my doubts about Chambers making his return at such a high profile event as Gateshead because most athletes returning from a time away from the sport, because of injury or suspensions, tend to test the waters at a smaller meet rather than dive straight in.

It is also difficult to gauge your fitness just based on how you are going in training, you also need races.

Chambers was deliberating whether to come and run but it has turned out to be an inspired decision.

He has been rewarded with a performance of 10.07 seconds that puts him right back up there as the European and British number one - and by a good couple of yards.

Just as he fell off the world stage three years ago, Chambers finds himself climbing right back on to it.

Chambers's biggest fear was how he would have been received by the crowd and once he got warm applause that probably settled him down.

Dwain Chambers (left) with fellow Britons Harry Aikines Aryeetey and Marlon Devonish
Back in the fold - Chambers (far left) with British rivals Aikines Aryeetey and Devonish

In Britain, we have a particular take on athletes returning from drugs bans because it just does not happen very often.

The American Torri Edwards was in Gateshead on her comeback from a doping suspension and many countries have to accept athletes back and just get on with it.

In every major championship there will be plenty of athletes who have been through the rehabilitation process. Whatever personal views we have, that is something that comes with the territory now.

UK Athletics performance director Dave Collins will make his selections for this month's European Cup based on the performances in Gateshead.

Collins has already pledged to pick the best athletes for the occasion and Chambers is now Britain's leading sprinter.

Britain's chances are diminishing in terms of medals at major championships and if an athlete is available according to the rules he will be selected.

It will now be up to Chambers himself to decide whether he wants to pull on a British vest just yet.

To step back out into the limelight and not to be shunned - that is a big fear that he has now overcome.

He will also be aware that he has to continue to build trust amongst those watching and his peers. He will want his performances to be judged as a clean athlete and for sceptics to be wondering if there is anything behind them.

People are going to have to trust what he says.

As for Chambers, I am not sure he would have been thinking about defending his European 100m title this summer - now he has to seriously consider that.

SEE ALSO
Powell equals 100m world record
11 Jun 06 |  Athletics
Lyne shocked by Gateshead display
11 Jun 06 |  Athletics
Powell on top as Britons struggle
02 Jun 06 |  Athletics
Powell hails rivalry with Gatlin
06 Jun 06 |  Athletics
Steve Cram column
07 Jun 06 |  Athletics


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