Athletics: Backley and Hill sparkle

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BRITAIN'S top javelin throwers, Mick Hill and Steve Backley, are on course for a momentous competition at next week's national championships and trials in Sheffield after winning abroad last night, writes Mike Rowbottom.

Backley, competing in Crete, produced a throw of 84.94 metres into an awkward headwind to build on his run of three victories in South Africa this spring. It was enough to leave him well clear of his Russian rival, Vladimir Ovchinnikov, who beat him to the world junior title in 1988.

Hill, Backley's training partner, dismayed the Finns on their home patch. After Juha Laukkanen had seized the lead with a last-round throw of 85.46 in Lahti, Hill stilled the roars of the crowd by reaching out to 86.36 with the very next throw. It was a telling blow in the country which will host this summer's European Championships - where tickets for the javelin final have already sold out.

Linford Christie's international season got off to a satisfactory start in the stifling heat of Seville as he won his 100 metres in a relatively modest 10.31sec.

'I'm satisfied with my start today, but I think I need another five races to reach peak form,' said Christie, who won the Inter Counties title in 10.52sec into a headwind last week. The Olympic and world champion won easily from Canada's world indoor champion, Bruny Surin (10.39sec) and the Russian, Alexander Porkhomovsky (10.56).

Javier Sotomayor, Cuba's Olympic high jump champion, indicated that his world record of 2.45m could be under threat this season as he jumped 2.42 before abandoning after two failures at 2.46.

Derartu Tulu, Ethiopia's Olympic 5,000m champion, won in 15min 40.29sec after pulling away from Ireland's Catherina McKiernan in the final straight.