Commonwealth Games 2002
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Athletics Saturday, 27 July, 2002, 21:26 GMT 22:26 UK
Manchester stunned by sprinting shock
Dwain Chambers (top) and Mark Lewis-Francis crash out of the 100m final
English pain: Chambers (top) and Lewis-Francis crash out
Tom Fordyve

As they settled in their blocks, the St George's Flags fluttered and the stadium hushed. This was the Commonwealth 100m, the highlight of the Games, and England expected.

All week the tension had been building.

Was Dwain Chambers carrying a calf niggle? Could Mark Lewis-Francis really take Commonwealth gold aged just 19? What sort of shape was Kim Collins really in?

In all the various permutations the 38,000-strong Manchester crowd had gone through, no-one had envisaged both the English heroes pulling up lame as if they had been shot by a sniper.

Mark Lewis-Francis had to be stretchered out of the Manchester stadium
Lewis-Francis could have won gold

The tragedy was more intense for Lewis-Francis. After a stinker of a semi, he had less than two hours to get himself back together for the final showdown.

He was managing it in some style. A man who always finishes well, he was on Collins' shoulder at 60m, utterly relaxed. The same thought flashed around the stadium in a tiny split-second - the kid was going to do it.

It was hard to say what happened first - the open-mouthed yell of pain which exploded on his face, or the collapse of his body into a horrible flailing of uncoordinated limbs.

He tried to force his broken body onwards, but like a Formula One car with a blow-out, he was out of control and out of the race.

Momentum alone carried him across the line. By then the realisation that his golden chance was gone hit home and sent him crashing to the ground.

He lay five metres past the finish line, injured leg twitching, utterly stricken. The stretcher-bearers tore over but it soon became clear that the pain was mental as much as physical.

Suddenly he looked like the teenager he is. Gone was the cocksure confidence. His muscular body, rather than carrying past men 10 years his senior, shook with heavy sobs.

He was carried from the stadium on a stretcher with his hands over his face. The crowd, so primed to cheer home English gold, responded with stunned, muted applause.

Kim Collins was a surprise winner of the 100m
Who would bet against a Collins double?

Chambers, meanwhile, so imperious when beating Maurice Greene earlier in the year, had failed to get out of the blocks in both heats and the semi-final - and he failed to do so again.

He has been in big finals before, taking bronze at the 1999 Worlds when he was just 21, coming home fourth at the Sydney Olympics. He can handle the big occasions.

But he was never in this one. Collins had gone; Lewis-Francis had left him. The immense shoulders pumped, the feet slapped down, but the magic was not there.

St Kitts and Nevis had never before won a Commonwealth medal of any colour. Now, through the smiling Collins, they had their first, in the biggest event of them all.

The whisperers had warned that he was going to be a threat. While the support of the Manchester crowd has lifted many English athletes, it has also brought pressure.

Chambers and Lewis-Francis had been talking of the Commonwealths and little else all year. Collins, by contrast, had strolled into the Games without a care in the world.

Now he leaves with one gold medal in his pocket - and with the 200m still to come, who would bet against a second of the same colour?

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26 Jul 02 | Athletics
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