Athletics: Bailey prepares for the real deal

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The Independent Online
Donovan Bailey, the Olympic 100 metres champion, faces a serious test of his form tonight after the hype and huge pay packets of this season's showdowns with Michael Johnson and Linford Christie.

The Canadian will find out if he has the sharpness to defend his title at next month's World Championships in Athens when he takes on a high- class field at the Lausanne Grand Prix.

If the conditions are favourable, Bailey's world record of 9.84sec, set in Atlanta, could be in danger. His opponents are expected to include Namibia's Frankie Fredericks, the Olympic silver medallist, bronze medallist Ato Boldon of Trinidad, as well as Christie. Leroy Burrell, also in the field, set the previous world record on the fast Lausanne track.

Bailey has been cashing in on his Atlanta success in the first part of the season. After his $1m showdown with Johnson in Toronto he beat Christie in another 150m duel in Sheffield on Sunday.

Bailey looked very sharp despite the cold and windy conditions in Sheffield. Afterwards he said: "It's not the money but the performance that counted and I was delighted with that."

Lausanne, one of the richest meetings on the circuit, also pays huge appearance fees to the big names, but the result of tonight's race should have more meaning in sporting terms than anything that has happened so far this season.

The meeting is also crucial for France's 200 and 400m Olympic champion, Marie-Jose Perec who has been struggling with her form. Perec, scheduled to run the 200m, has said she would pull out of the World Championships if she did not have a better race in Lausanne.