Controversial sprinter Dwain Chambers will start as favourite for 60metres gold at the European Indoor Championships in Turin after being confirmed in the Aviva Great Britain team today.
Chambers, who was banned for two years after testing positive for THG in 2003, sealed his place with a world-leading time of 6.51 seconds earlier this month, after which new UK Athletics head coach Charles van Commenee claimed the Londoner could still leave a meaningful “legacy” for the sport.
He is joined in the team by fellow sprinters Simeon Williamson, the second fastest European over the distance this year, and Craig Pickering.
Williamson believes he can challenge Chambers for gold, and has another race in Athens tomorrow night to hone his form.
“Things are going very nicely for me right now,” said the European Under-23 100m champion who on Saturday posted a lifetime best of 6.53sec at the Aviva Grand Prix in Birmingham.
“I really put in a lot of hard work this winter in Jamaica and back here in the UK with my coach Lloyd Cowan.
“I’m getting faster and faster as the year goes on and I’m feeling very confident I can be faster still for Turin.”
A 36-strong party also includes 3,000m favourite Mo Farah, who has twice broken the UK record in recent weeks with his latest success coming at the Aviva Grand Prix.
“I’m really pleased with the way the year has gone so far,” said Farah who posted a world-class mark of seven minutes 34.47seconds at the National Indoor Arena.
“But I’m not taking anything for granted. There will be some tough opposition in Turin and I’ve got some hard work ahead of me.
“I’m just concentrating on maintaining my focus and being at my best when it counts and then hopefully, the rewards should come.”
The championships will offer Farah the chance of revenge over Jesus Espana, the Spaniard who beat him by a fraction of a second to win the European outdoor 5,000m gold medal in 2006.
Van Commenee, who will lead the British contingent for the first time at the event which runs from March 6-8, is looking for some positive displays from his squad.
“Major championships are the best part of any athlete’s life,” said Van Commenee. “It is what they train and live for.
“The athletes selected in the Aviva Great Britain and Northern Ireland Team have a fantastic opportunity to achieve something significant in the sport.
“We will do all we can help them try to make the most of this opportunity and perform to the best of their ability.
“In recent years, we have established a really strong reputation within European athletics, especially in light of some of the successes at last year’s European Cup, the Olympic Games and European Cross Country Championships.
“It is important for us to sustain our standing by committing ourselves to the challenges in Turin and competing fiercely in order to meet our individual and collective goals.”
The last European Indoor Championships in Birmingham two years ago saw the team top the medal table with a total of 10 podium finishes including four gold.
Phillips Idowu, who has been suffering from a leg injury and more recently sickness, will not defend his triple jump title, leaving just three of the individual medallists surviving from that occasion.
They are Pickering, second over 60m, Martyn Bernard, third in the high jump, and possibly pentathlon silver medallist Kelly Sotherton – who is struggling with an injury and will decide shortly whether she is fit to take part.
There is also a place in the team for the evergreen Donna Fraser, named in the women’s 400m and 4x400m following an excellent indoor campaign that saw her complete a 200m/400m double at the Aviva European Trials & UK Championships.
Fraser who set a personal best of 52.83seconds, said: “I started out this indoor season just wanting to enjoy my athletics again. I didn’t really think it could have gone this well.
“I feel like I did about 10 years ago and am really looking forward to competing at the Europeans.”
Aviva Great Britain and Northern Ireland team:
60m: Dwain Chambers (Belgrave Harriers); Craig Pickering (Marshall Milton Keynes); Simeon Williamson (Highgate Harriers); 400m: Richard Buck (City of York); Nick Leavey (Thames Valley); 1500m: Neil Speaight (Belgrave Harriers); Chris Warburton (Notts AC); 3000m: Mark Draper (Bedford & County); Mo Farah (Newham & Essex); Nick McCormick (Morpeth Harriers); 60m hurdles: Allan Scott (Shaftesbury Barnet); Andy Turner (Sale Harriers Manchester); High Jump: Martyn Bernard (Wakefield Harriers); Samson Oni (Belgrave Harriers); Pole Vault: Steve Lewis (Newham & Essex); Long Jump: Greg Rutherford (Marshall Milton Keynes); Chris Tomlinson (Newham & Essex); Shot: Carl Myerscough (Blackpool, Wyre & Fylde); 4x400m: Buck, Dale Garland (Birchfield Harriers); Leavey, Nigel Levine (Windsor, Slough, Eton & Hounslow); Phil Taylor (Liverpool, Pembroke & Sefton)
400m: Donna Fraser (Croydon Harriers); 800m: Jennifer Meadows (Wigan Harriers); Marilyn Okoro (Shaftesbury Barnet); 1500m: Hannah England (Oxford City); Susan Scott (City of Glasgow Victoria Park) 3000m: Katrina Wootton (Bedford & County); 60m hurdles: Gemma Bennett (Shaftesbury Barnet); Sarah Claxton (Woodford Green & Essex Ladies); Pole Vault: Kate Dennison (Sale Harriers Manchester) Long Jump: Jade Johnson (Herne Hill); Pentathlon: Kelly Sotherton (Birchfield Harriers); 4x400m: Vicki Barr (Rugby & Northampton); Tara Bird (Woodford Green & Essex Ladies); Fraser; Kim Wall (Basildon AC); Dawn Wilson (Windsor, Slough, Eton & Hounslow).