Without Dwain Chambers, Richard Kilty would probably not be where he is today. The fateful moment occurred 19 years ago, when the prospect of the pair lining up alongside each other at the British Indoor Championships this Saturday was fanciful.
For starters, Kilty was just a wide-eyed 10-year-old boy collaring his idol, unable to dream of ever running as fast. As for Chambers, then one of the quickest men in the world, the idea of still competing almost two decades on was almost laughable.
So when they resume hostilities in Birmingham – Kilty as the double reigning European 60m champion and Chambers a 40-year-old who has come out of retirement specifically for the event – it will be one of the unlikeliest reunions.
“I’d just started athletics and as a present for winning my first couple of races my dad bought me tickets to go to Gateshead,” Kilty told Telegraph Sport. “Dwain beat Maurice Greene and I remember I waited about an hour outside the stadium for for him.
“When he came out with security I ran over to him but one of the security guys pushed me aside. Dwain had a go at them, asked what they were doing and put his arm round me.
“I told him I wanted to be like him one day and he signed my cap ‘Good luck, from Dwain Chambers’. I’ve still got the cap in my dad’s house.
“Then 14 years later I lined up alongside someone who used to be my hero and I had to beat him to win the world indoor 60m title. I told him the story and said how much that inspired me as a kid.”
Chambers’ unlikely presence on the 60m startlist has dominated much of the build-up to an event that doubles as the trials for next month’s European Indoor Championships.
Having officially retired in August 2017 and last represented his country five years ago, Chambers clocked 6.70 seconds at a low-key meet in December – his first competitive race for almost a year and a half – to put him just outside the top 10 in this season’s British 60m rankings.
With a personal best of 6.42sec, which still ranks him fifth in the global all-time lists, and the absence of British No 1 Reece Prescod, it is conceivable that Chambers could improve sufficiently to make the top two in Birmingham and seal a place in the British team. It is a prospect that Kilty, who is on the comeback trail from Achilles surgery last July, believes is possible.
“I was on the phone to Dwain for about an hour in September getting some advice,” he said. “He’s been through so much in his career, so I rang him and asked about his training and stuff.
“He’s been through a lot but the way he’s turned his career around, he’s a credit to the sport. He’s made his mistakes but it will be an honour to line up against him – he inspired me to become a professional athlete.
“You never know what that guy’s capable of so you can never count him out. When Dwain’s on the line he has that bold presence about him – some people are scared of racing him. It’s going to be great.”
Kilty and Chambers are two of the biggest draws in a men’s 60m that also features world 4x100m champion Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake. Reigning European indoor champions Laura Muir (3000m) and Asha Philip (60m) are clear favourites to win their events on Saturday, while Katarina Johnson-Thompson competes on both Saturday and Sunday as she prepares to try and add the European pentathlon title to the world crown she won last year.
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