Athletics: Christie back in swing

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The Independent Online
LINFORD CHRISTIE and Colin Jackson got back to business here on Saturday to provide British athletics with a welcome distraction from its grim preoccupation.

This Friday the British Athletic Federation, with Professor Peter Radford, newly installed as executive chairman, will take up the vexed task of investigating the behaviour of their promotions officer, Andy Norman, who has been accused of contributing to the death earlier this month of the writer and coach, Cliff Temple, by spreading malicious rumours.

The uncertainty of the situation is having its effect on all within the sport, not least those from Alan Pascoe Associates, who are charged with finding British athletics replacement sponsors for those who have dropped out recently. The sponsors involved - Vauxhall, Panasonic and Pearl Assurance, for whom Saturday's international match against Russia represented its last event - have chosen to withdraw for a variety of reasons unconnected with the Norman affair. But senior executives involved in marketing have admitted that the negative publicity generated recently has made life considerably harder for them to operate.

It is nevertheless expected that there will soon be three announcements on sponsorship within the sport, which would provide much reassurance.

In the meantime, Christie's exuberant defeat of his friend and training partner, Jackson, by the narrowest of margins over 60 metres, and the latter's subsequent victory in the 60m hurdles, revealed two of Britain's pre-eminent competitors to be in ideal shape for a packed season in which both will seek Commonwealth and European titles.

Upon his return from a winter's work along with Jackson in Australia, Christie was given a choice by his coach, Ron Roddan: race a lot or train a lot. Christie has chosen the former course. He has raced twice in two weeks at Glasgow, and has lined up a cluster of meetings at the start of next month in Seville, Stuttgart and Ghent.

'I haven't got anyone to really push me in training apart from Colin, and he will be concentrating on his hurdling,' Christie said. 'So I am using these guys I race against as my training.

'Today's race told me that things in Australia have gone really well. Last season I didn't even run the indoors because I had a back injury. This year I am very, very fit.'