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BRITAIN'S LITTLE GEM! Semi-pro footballer to world-class sprinter inside just seven months.

Byline: Dave KIDD

WHEN they crown the Fastest Man on earth at 9.50 this evening, Adam Gemili is likely to be an also-ran.

Usain Bolt will bid to defend his Olympic crown against his training partner and world champion Yohan 'The Beast' Blake.

the Tyson Gay is in the stellar cast, along with his fellow American Ryan Bailey, who ran the fastest-ever Olympic heat yesterday.

But for the 18-year-old Gemili, just being there at the business end of the 100m competition is a phenomenal achievement.

Only seven months ago, Gemili was a nonleague footballer with Thurrock. A potential FA Cup giant-killer perhaps, but a world-class sprinter? Impossible.

Man man This evening he will line up alongside Gay and Blake in one of three semi-finals, knowing he has a genuine chance of qualifying for the greatest 10 seconds in world sport.

Gemili, who went to Dartford Grammar School just like Mick Jagger, came from nowhere to win the world junior championship last month. And he was second to Asafa Powell in his heat yesterday morning, clocking 10.11sec. He may not have been as fast as Bolt or Blake, and even his controversial Great Britain team-mate Dwain Chambers ran a season's best 10.02sec.

But Gemili looked as though he belongs in his first-ever meeting with sprinting's top guns, and was determined not to cower in such esteemed company.

Gemili said: "To come to the Olympics and to walk inside the stadium with the cheer is unbelievable for me. Things are happening quickly this year, but I have worked hard. I only started in athletics in January and the results are showing now.

"You have to respect Asafa Powell, but you can't respect your opponents too much. He is just another guy. I executed a good race and I am happy with that.

"I feel I can hopefully run a bit quicker, I'm not going to say a time because I don't like to talk them, but I think I can run quicker.

"It would be amazing to reach the final. It would feel unbelievable. No feeling would ever match it and I would never forget it."

In the preceding heat, Bolt overcame a stumbling start to win his heat in 10.09sec - but this is not the showman who lit up Beijing. Having struggled with a back injury and under pressure from Blake and the Americans, his invincibility has evaporated.

Bolt said: "I made a bad step at the start. I stumbled a bit but I'm glad it happened now in the heat and not later in the competition. I expected to win, I'm running well, training is great and my reaction was great."

Blake clocked 10 seconds dead, bettered only in the heats by Bailey in 9.88sec and drugs cheat Justin Gatlin - who served a four-year ban until 2010 - in 9.97sec.

Chambers had a BOA life-time Olympic overturned to be here, after his own doping ban - but the London crowd still got behind one of their own.

Nervous

Despite having failed to make the qualifying time, Chambers won the British Olympic trials to secure his place and won the final heat convincingly yesterday.

Chambers said: "You don't understand how nervous I was. I am glad to get through the heat, the roar of the crowd was amazing. It inspired me. You can train all year but, ultimately, you have to run fast at the championships and I have been taking it step-by-step to get here. It is a fast track and I need to get through the rounds."

Britain's third entrant, James Dasaolu, also made the semi-finals, finishing third behind Bolt in 10.13sec.

Yet one sprinter not in Stratford tonight is former world champion Kim Collins, who was barred from competing by his St Kitts and Nevis association for the 'crime' of visiting his wife, who doubles as his coach, in a hotel on Friday.

"Even men in prison get their wives to visit," groaned Collins, who insists he will never run for his country again.

CAPTION(S):

JUST WARMING UP: Bolt stumbled through the first round, while Chambers (right) roared to a season's best and the field were trailing by Gay (above) in heat one FROM THURROCK TO ROCKET: Gemili (No.4) powers home behind Powell (far left)
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Aug 5, 2012
Words:714
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