| Russia’s Yelena Nikolayeva takes a victory lap after winning the 20km walk at the world athletics in Paris on Sunday. (AFP)
Paris: Three-time world champion Maurice Greene remained on course for an unprecedented fourth consecutive 100 metres title with two efficient, if unspectacular, performances in the opening rounds on Sunday.
But the competition descended into farce when former American champion Jon Drummond and Jamaican Asafa Powell were disqualified for a false start amid chaotic scenes at the Stade de France.
The second round heats were held up for over 45 minutes as Drummond at first berated officials, before laying down in the middle of the track and refusing to move.
Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia won the men’s 10,000m gold medal. Haile Gebrselassie and Sileshi Sihine, also of Ethiopia, took the silver and bronze respectively.
Greene, drawn in the last heat of the day with European champion Dwain Chambers and Commonwealth champion Kim Collins, was forced to wait on the sidelines as a tearful and highly-agitated Drummond continued his protest.
The inconsolable 34-year-old, bare-chested and sobbing, was eventually ushered away from the track in the arms of coach John Smith.
The confusion increased when the remaining five athletes were led away, before later returning to compete after the other heats.
Greene kept his calm to ease into Monday’s semi-finals but failed to get a morale-boosting win in either round.
The 29-year-old, the dominant sprinter of his era but struggling for consistency this year after suffering tendinitis in his right leg, made a slow start in his opening heat, clocking 10.18 to finish second to Ghana's Eric Nkansah.
He then improved with a time of 10.04 in a quick second round heat won in 10.02 by Collins. In a tight finish, Chambers took second in 10.03 with Greene handed the same time as Nigeria’s Deji Aliu.
In contrast, world record holder Tim Montgomery brushed aside worries over his recent poor form and made a statement of intent with impressive wins in both his heats.
Montgomery followed up his opening 10.07 to equal his season's best of 10.04 as he went through to Monday’s semis with a smooth second round win.
“I feel great right now,” said Montgomery, after finishing ahead of US champion and 2001 world bronze medallist Bernard Williams.
Earlier, Yelena Nikolayeva, the 37-year old Russian, became the oldest champion in the 20-year history of the world athletics championships with a gold in the women’s 20 km walk on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Carolina Kluft responded to the unexpected prospect of elimination from the heptathlon like a true champion.
Kluft fouled with her first two attempts in the long jump after setting four personal bests in as many events on Saturday.
A third no-jump would have left her out of contention but the 20-year-old Swede made no mistake, leaping from well behind the take-off board and still recording the leading mark of 6.68 metres.
“I was very nervous and just tried to think that I must have fun and try to do my job,” she confessed. “It worked. I was pretty nervous but now I’ve done it so it feels very good.”
Kluft’s open enjoyment of her prowess at running, jumping and throwing has won her fans outside the small band of Swedish supporters basking in the sun at the Stade de France.
After five events she is poised to add the world gold medal to her European title after earning a total of 5,209 points, 217 more than France’s 1999 world champion Eunice Barber.