Athletics: Christie crumbles as Drummond drives on: Olympic champion limps away while O'Sullivan breaks European record and Harris is forbidden to run

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The Independent Online
NOTHING appears capable of halting Sonia O'Sullivan's glorious momentum this season; but the same proved demonstrably untrue for Linford Christie and Colin Jackson last night as they came away from the TSB Games here with worrying injuries.

O'Sullivan's 3,000 metres victory in 8min 21.65sec, surpassing the 10-year-old European record of Russia's Tatyana Kazankina, was preceded and followed by perturbing events for two of Britain's three reigning world champions just three weeks before the European Championships.

Christie hobbled off the track clutching the back of his left thigh after defeat in the 100m. He has pulled out of his next scheduled meetings at Nice and Gateshead on Monday and Wednesday respectively and will fly straight to Munich to consult his regular doctor, Hans-Muller Wolfhardt. His scheduled meeting with the new world record holder, Leroy Burrell, on 25 July at the Goodwill Games looks in doubt.

Jackson scratched from the 110m hurdles with what he described as a 'groin niggle'. Having returned successfully at Edinburgh last Friday after a month's absence with minor injury, he will proceed with caution, although he has not yet ruled out competing in Nice.

Christie ran 10.07 to win his private battle with Olapade Adeniken, of Nigeria, and Andre Cason, the American he defeated at last year's World Championships, but a second American, Jon Drummond, finished ahead of both in 10.03, a UK All-comers' record.

'I hope it is nothing more than a touch of cramp,' said Christie, who just three-quarters of an hour earlier had anchored the relay team to victory in 38.64, a European best this year.

While Britain's cup filled with woe - Steve Smith pulled out of the high jump, Gary Cadogan trotted in last in the 400m hurdles and Matthew Yates only completed the first half of the 1500m, won by Noureddine Morceli, the Algerian world 1500m champion and world record holder, in a UK All-Comers' record of 3:30.72 - Ireland drank its fill of success.

After breaking the 10,000m world record last week in Edinburgh, O'Sullivan had hoped for a fast run in her first 3,000m of the season. In fulfilling that hope, she underlined her claim to being the best middle distance runner outside China.

It is hard to see anyone stopping her in Helsinki; then as now, the closest competition may come from Scotland's defending champion, Yvonne Murray, who was second last night in 8:29.60. 'I surprised myself,' O'Sullivan said. 'I stll can't believe my time. Maybe we should have a re-match with the Chinese.'

It was left to the third British world record holder, Sally Gunnell, to fly the flag. She held off a strong late challenge from America's Kim Batten on her outside to win the 400m hurdles in 54.03, the fastest time in the world this year. John Regis also bolstered home morale with victory in the 200m in 20.42.

Meanwhile, Danny Harris, one of the most successful 400m hurdlers, was stunned when ordered at short notice to withdraw from the event here. The world and Olympic silver medallist, who ended Ed Moses's unbeaten run of 122 races, was told less than five hours before his race that he would not be eligible to run as he was still within the four-year International Amateur Atheltic Federation ban received for cocaine abuse in February 1992.

Harris, who has since spent large amounts of money and effort to rehabilitate himself, has already competed in four IAAF grand prix meetings this season in good faith, having completed a two-year ban imposed by the United States Track and Field Federation.

The IAAF's competitions director, Sandro Giovannelli, who broke the news to Harris in his room at the Croydon Park Hotel, said the American runner, was shocked. 'He told me that he had a letter back home from the US federation clearing him to compete,' Giovannelli said. Pete Cava, the USTAF spokesman, responded: 'This is a bit heavy-handed. As far as we are concerned Harris was cleared to compete on 1 March this year. I'm sure this information was passed on to the IAAF.'

The muddle leaves the 29-year- old in a potentially demoralising situation. The IAAF council is not due to meet until November, which could leave the hurdler in limbo.

Quite how the IAAF remained unaware of the anomaly thus far into the season was not clear, particularly considering he appeared fourth in the official IAAF grand prix standings issued yesterday.

(Photograph omitted)