Athletics: Boldon has a golden look

Mike Rowbottom observes an electric performance by the Trinidadian sprinter
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The Independent Online
Ato Boldon established himself as clear favourite for tonight's world championship 100 metres final with an outrageous display of sprinting yesterday. The 22-year-old Trinidadian won his second round heat in 9.87sec, putting him fourth in the all-time records. The defending champion, Donovan Bailey, could only finish second in his heat in a time of 10.10 after pulling up with a grimace of pain towards the end.

After throwing his kit basket angrily across the floor, the Canadian received treatment on his leg. "He had a mild cramp in his right leg,'' Bailey's manager, Ray Flynn, said. ''We don't think it is going to be too serious. It appears that he is going to be fit to run tomorrow.''

Bailey limped away without making any comment: it was a silence that spoke volumes for Boldon's chances of victory. The Trinidadian's performance was all the more staggering for the fact that he had time to turn before the line and glance over to his friend at his training partner Maurice Greene, who clocked 9.90sec.

It looks more likely than ever that today's final will see Bailey's world record of 9.84sec beaten. If Boldon manages to maintain his impetus, the prediction of his girlfriend, Cassandra, that he will run 9.76 begins to look less absurd. "I probably ran faster than I needed to," Boldon said. "But I don't think it took too much out of me. I have been telling everyone that it is going to be 9.7 and now we are going to see it. Expect a world record. I don't want to run as fast in the semi-final. I want to save what I have left for the final.''

Tim Montgomery of the United States beat Bailey with a time of 9.99sec, the same recorded by the double Olympic silver medallist, Frankie Fredericks. Bailey was followed home by Darren Campbell, who secured a place in today's semi-finals as one of the four fastest losers with a time of 10.13.

Campbell's coach and Britain's fastest man this season - Linford Christie - was looking on from the BBC television commentary box. His successor as British champion, Ian Mackie, was drawn in Boldon's heat after a disappointing 10.42 in the first round to earn a qualifying place by 0.01sec. The Scot - who complained afterwards of a hamstring problem - improved to 10.24 but could finish only fifth, not enough to see him through.

Ashia Hansen gave Britain's team one reason to be cheerful yesterday as she reached tomorrow's triple jump final as the best qualifier. Hansen, whose recent preparations had been undermined by a niggling back injury, underlined her medal potential by jumping 14.77 metres with her second attempt, some 20cm clear of the nearest challenger.

The 25-year-old's prospects were further improved by the withdrawal of the defending champion and world record holder, Inessa Kravets. The 1993 world champion, Anna Biryukova, also went out after injuring her knee. Kravets was one of the main threats Hansen identified before these championships. After suffering from an Achilles tendon injury, she returned to action last month in Nice where she recorded a merely respectable distance of 14.40.

The first medal of the championships went to the Ukraine's Aleksandr Bagach who beat the US wild-card entrant John Godina by three centimetres with 21.47m. In the only other title to be decided on the first night, Mexican Daniel Garcia won the 20km walk.

Britain's Donna Fraser and Allison Curbishley both reached today's 400m semi-finals as fastest losers, the latter in a Scottish record of 50.78.

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