Athletics: Bailey rises to Christie's challenge

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The Independent Online
Donovan Bailey left the Don Valley track pounds 50,000 richer yesterday after comfortably the 150 metres challenge race at the Securicor Games over a field which included Britain's European Cup captain, Linford Christie. The world and Olympic 100m champion recorded 15.00sec into a head wind, with Christie, who was straining to stay with him by the time they turned into the straight, eventually being beaten into third place by Scotland's Ian Mackie, who also defeated him here at the end of last sesason. "The best man won today," Christie said. "But I ran absolute rubbish."

On a chill evening, Christie was timed at 15.27sec - well outside his best of 14.97 - while Mackie clocked 15.25.

Sally Gunnell, Britain's other gold medallist from the 1992 Olympics, had her European Cup win put into perspective when she was beaten into fourth place in a 400m hurdles race won in 53.82sec by the woman who succeeded here as Olympic champion, Deon Hemmings, of Jamaica.

"I wish I could have got a bit closer to Deon today," Gunnell said, "but I've still got another month until the World Championships."

Steve Smith saw off a high jump field which included the European champion, Steinar Hoen, with an effort of 2.31m, his best of the season, before going on to glance the bar off at 2.35m.

The attendance figure of 16,025 for the flagship grand prix of the domestic season was down on the predictions. That was no doubt partly a reflection of the grey, chilliness of the day and the unexpected alternative draw of People's Sunday in SW19.

But the packed main stand made its vocal contribution to the opening flourish of the meeting as Ashia Hansen twice broke her own British and Commonwealth triple jump record, raising it first to 14.92m and then to 14.94.

The blustery wind was barely within the legal limit of two metres per second for the first of her marks, but it had dropped to 0.90mps for her second mark.

Only five women in history have ever bettered Hansen's record, which raises glittering possibilities for this summer's World Championships. "I had my doubts beforehand," Hansen said. "But now we are talking gold in Athens. I felt that confident about today's performance."

With two leading contenders out of the running with injury - Inna Lasovskaya and the world record holder, Inessa Kravets - Hansen reckons she has only two other big rivals for the title.

Britain's other noted triple jumper, the world champion and world record holder Jonathan Edwards, had a less happy time, limping out of the event after two jumps following an injury to his left heel.

Edwards, having run through his first jump, regained the lead from the man who beat him to the Olympic title, Kenny Harrison, with his second effort of 17.54m, but in doing so aggravated his heel. "I thought it was best that I stopped," he said, after having treatment by the side of the runway.

The meeting's opening event, the 10,000m trial for the World Championships, failed to clarify anything. Ian Hudspith, younger brother of Britain's Commonwealth marathon bronze medallist, Mark, held on to win despite a late sprint from Glynn Tromans, the Coventry athlete who underwent two heart operations last year. Neither man achieved the world qualifying of 28min 10sec - Hudspith's time was 28min 35.11sec.

Andrew Pearson, whose fourth place at 5,000m in Munich last weekend secured the European Cup for Britain, missed yesterday's race with sinusitis, but he has no qualifying time either. Only three Britons are qualified on time - Ian Robinson, who only earned his mark last year, Jon Brown, the European cross-country champion, who does not want to run in Athens, and Rob Denmark, who also missed the trial. Three places to fill - no obvious contenders.

Channel 4, for whom this was the first live televised meeting of the season, produced a curious assortment of characters to interview between events, including Diane Modahl, currently attempting to sue the British Atheltics Federation for damages, and a man who explained how the betting was going with reference to what the interviewer referred to as "a nifty board." A curious piece of equipment given that the BAF firmly rejected the return of on-course betting two years ago.

The BAF-Channel 4 intention - grab their interest - may have been laudable, but the booming not overly well-informed presence of Kiss FM radio's Fat Freddy M - brought in as MC on the day - was an initiative too far.

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