ATHLETICS: Braithwaite finds a silver lining

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ATHLETICS

MIKE ROWBOTTOM

reports from Barcelona

There were several clouds for Britain at the World Indoor Championships here yesterday - and a silver lining. Michael Rosswess, who has had more ups and downs than a steeplejack in recent weeks, missed a place in the 60 metres final on the toss of a 100-peseta coin.

But Darren Braithwaite, carrying the expectations which at one stage this week looked likely to rest upon Linford Christie's shoulders, finished second behind the defending champion, Bruny Surin, in a personal best of 6.51sec.

The Canadian's time was a championship record of 6.46sec, 0.01sec faster than the previous season's best set by Christie, who was a pensive presence in the BBC Television commentary position.

Braithwaite, whose biggest impact on a major championship until last night had been to drop the 400m relay baton in last summer's European Championships, was relieved and delighted in equal measure.

It had not escaped his attention that Christie made his breakthrough at the same age - 26 - in winning the 1986 European Indoor Championships. "I always think that - dj vu," he said. "It's a pity Linford was not here, but it's too bad. I got my first major medal, and a PB, and I can't complain about that. I think this is going to kick-start my career.''

The next move for Braithwaite is a training trip to Los Angeles with John Regis, who qualified safely for the 200m final, and Tony Jarrett.

For Rosswess, called up at short notice to replace Christie, the immediate prospect is far less bright. He appeared to have done enough to qualify for the final as a fastest loser after finishing one thousandth of a second quicker than Marc Blume, of Germany - 6.618sec to 6.619.

But after a German protest the photo finish was re-examined and the runners showed the same time. The International Amateur Athletic Federation thus invoked its Rule 146.1, which allows for competitors in such cases to be separated by lots.

Thus, in the presence of both athletes and team coaches, Sandro Giovanelli, the IAAF's competition's director, drew out of his pocket a 100-peseta coin and tossed it. Rosswess called heads. It was tails. With his luck recently, it had to be.

"I just congratulated the bloke," Rosswess said. "It was the same for both of us. That's life.''

And life has been tough on this 28-year-old from Handsworth recently. Having given up the indoor season as a bad job after the fiasco in Birmingham on 25 February, when he was not told by the British Athletic Federation that 60m heats were being run, Rosswess had travelled at short notice more in hope than anticipation.

He had considered turning down the invitation, but decided against it. "I thought, these championships don't come around that often, so I might as well come out and have a party.''

Some party. Just to add to the general celebration, Rosswess has recently lost both his shoe contract and his sponsored car.

Braithwaite is still looking for a contract having been dropped by Puma four years ago. "They didn't think I was good enough," he said. There may be some reconsideration now.

Regis qualified behind Norway's European champion, Geir Moen, without showing any sign of the hamstring injury which had put his participation in doubt until late this week.

But Britain's other representative, Solomon Wariso, pulled up after 150 metres of his semi-final having aggravated an injury caused by stubbing his toe in the heat. Long after the other runners had filed off the track, he sat resignedly on the top bend in the outside lane, which he had found so difficult to negotiate earlier in the day.

"The problem was a joint on the little toe of my left foot," said the man who has returned successfully from a three-month suspension for a doping irregularity. "I have had infra-red and ice treatment on it all day.''

The spectators last night included Primo Nebiolo, the president of the International Amateur Athletic Federation, and Juan-Antonio Samaranch, the president of the International Olympic Committee, who sat next to each other like two captains on the same deck.

Merlene Ottey, whose presence in the 60m was said to be one of the reasons why Irina Privalova chose to do the 400m here, won gold with queenly certainty in a time of 6.97sec, well clear of Melanie Paschke, of Germany.

The first round of the 400m proved deeply disappointing for Britain - no one got through. Mark Hylton, who has had an outstanding indoor season and hoped to improve his British junior record of 46.56sec, simply ran out of energy half-way through his race - the legacy of a cold which he thought he had recovered from.

Melanie Neef was characteristically candid about her performance in finishing fourth in her heat in 53.34sec, well outside her Scottish record of 52.57. "It was pathetic," she said. "I'm really disappointed. I was second going into the final bend and I thought I was fine." Magdalena Nedelcu, Romania's world junior champion, won in 53.10 with the defending champion, Sandie Richards, finishing behind her.

John Mayock qualified for tomorrow's 3,000m final despite having spent a week getting rid of a cold which obliged him to take to his bed last weekend. Apart from rest, his main cure has been a diet of oranges - thankfully not scarce in these parts.

Results, Sporting Digest,

page 47

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