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Devonish out of the blocks quickest at 'new' Hampden

RAINDROPS have taken the place of perspiration on his brow.

Devonish approved of Hampden surface despite initial reservations about its construction. Picture: Nick Ponty
Devonish approved of Hampden surface despite initial reservations about its construction. Picture: Nick Ponty

Marlon Devonish is on a track again, on his marks too, but his burst out of the blocks brings only nods of approval from those watching him and a few murmured questions.

The Englishman has sprinted to success in Olympics, European Championships and a home Common­weath Games, but his efforts yesterday are an exercise simply in PR and an opportunity for a group of journalists to give the finished ­Hampden track a trial run ahead of the Commonwealth Games. Those attending follow him closely without pushing the former champion to exert himself.

The pace has slowed for Devonish since retirement. His time is spent coaching sprinting, at Gloucester Rugby and Queens Park Rangers. His reputation as an accomplished runner - he won gold in Manchester in 2002 and Athens in 2004 - has brought invitations to help sportsmen get up to speed, and he acknow­ledges the challenge posed in trying to adapt his methods to suit the needs of a footballer.

Devonish stepped out at Scotland's national stadium yesterday antici­pating that the surface put together for the Games would require ­sprinters to tailor their techniques too; myriad stilts having been installed at Hampden on to which the athletics track was placed. His concern related to how it would feel to run on and is likely to be shared this summer by such as Mo Farah, Christine Ohuruogu and Yohan Blake, who won three Olympic medals in London two years ago. "When I heard about scaffolding and that sort of thing going down to make a track, I thought 'Really? It's going to be like an indoor track outdoors?' But I'm completely shocked that it didn't feel like that," says Devonish. "How the track has been laid down will have no effect on performances; athletes will all be thinking about that. But that will be a quick track."

Now 38, he declined an offer to find out just how quick but his experience still allowed him an educated guess. Devonish ran a personal best in the 200 metres at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester 12 years ago and he predicts that his successors in Glasgow could post notable times, his enthusiasm quickened by the prospect of records falling along the way.

"In terms of the stadium providing the tools for quick performances, there is no doubt, but the weather will have a bearing on that," he says, with a nod to puddles forming on uncovered areas of the track.

The chances would be increased were Usain Bolt to commit, with the 100m and 200m world record holder having delayed his return to competition as the result of a foot injury which has cast doubt over the prospect of performing at Hampden.

There could be at least one athlete capable of running 100m in under 10 seconds taking to the track this summer: London-born Chijindu Ujah has been rewarded for a time of 9.96sec at the Fanny Blankers meeting in Hengelo, Netherlands, on Sunday night with an invitation to run next month in the Sainsbury's Glasgow Grand Prix.

The performance from the 20-year- old has provoked gasps in athletics, although Devonish acknowledges that he had been waiting on the arrival of the Englishman for some time. "I was training with him before the end of my career . . . I remember giving him a lift back to the bus stop when we trained a Lee Valley. I thought then that the guy had skills."

He thinks that Scottish journalists are not so slow on the uptake either. A 100m race between them resulted in a victory for Herald Sport in a time which might be considered an unofficial record at Hampden. "With the leg turnover, I would put you in the 100 metres," Devonish adds with a chuckle. It is a sunny moment inside an overcast Hampden. Come ahead, Yohan Blake.

n Watch the world's best athletes including Mo Farah, Christine Ohuruogu, Greg Rutherford, Yohan Blake at the Sainsbury's Glasgow Grand Prix at Hampden Park on July 11-12, two weeks before the Commonwealth Games. Tickets via britishathletics.org.uk

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