Athletics: Christie brings down the curtain

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The Independent Online
Linford Christie will bow out of international athletics next month as Britain's captain at the European Cup in Munich.

The 37-year-old former Olympic champion said last summer that he wanted to make his last British appearance in the event, and he now has his wish.

He will be succeeded as captain by Roger Black, the Olympic 400m silver medallist; Sally Gunnell will continue to fulfil the role for Britain's women.

Christie, who is adamant that he will not compete in the World Championships this summer, is unbeaten in the European Cup, where he has established an unequalled record of 11 victories over 100 and 200 metres. He was not present for yesterday's announcement because of prior commitments.

Black, speaking from his training base in California yesterday, said he was recovering well from the knee operation he underwent in January.

"I think it's an exciting time to be asked to become captain," he said via a telephone link-up. "Communication is becoming more important for the sport, and there is more of a role for a team captain. I think the accessibility of the captain is important. I think that's been difficult for people in the last few years."

Gunnell, who is training in Benidorm, will have her first competitive outing in Jena this Sunday, over 400 metres flat. She plans to race over the 400m hurdles for the first time since she collapsed in the Olympic semi-final when she runs in Rome on 5 June.

Gunnell said she had not been surprised by the announcement that Sandra Farmer-Patrick, the US 400m hurdler whom she beat at the 1992 Olympics and 1993 World Championships, had received a four-year drug ban.

"I had heard rumours about it earlier this year," Gunnell said. "I'm not saying she was on it in 1992 or 1993. I suppose if she had won gold and I had won silver, I might have thought I had been robbed. But I got the golds. Perhaps someone was looking over me."

Black told an audience which included Britain's chief coach, Malcolm Arnold, that he was expecting to be offered the 400m place for this season's European Cup when the team was picked on 7 June.

Mark Richardson, who has been training with Black in the United States, may make that a harder judgement if he produces a fast time at the Eugene meeting this Sunday.

Arnold said that the National Lottery funds awarded to British Athletics this week through the World Class Performance programme would be administered by a subisidiary of the British Athletic Federation, namely Performance Athletes Services. Dave Moorcroft, the former world 5,000m record holder, will be chairman, and the board will include the former Olympic pentathlon champion, Mary Peters.