Athletics: Christie fades at the last

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LINFORD CHRISTIE's hungover feeling since impressively winning the Commonwealth Games 100 metres stayed with him here yesterday at the IAAF Mobil Grand Prix final, in which he suffered his third defeat in a week.

Not that the British captain thought he had lost to the American world championship bronze medallist, Dennis Mitchell. But on the line there was a hand's length between them. Mitchell recorded 10.12sec to Christie's 10.13. Although Mitchell made the better start, Christie exerted his usual mid-race authority and seemed to be pulling away at 60 metres. It was not decisive enough though, and over the final few strides Mitchell came back to inflict his second defeat on the World and Olympic champion in seven days.

Mitchell was more complimentary about Christie than some Americans have been this summer. 'I know I've got to meet him at least once more this year, probably in Tokyo, and I wouldn't be surprised if he hadn't recovered his best form.' Christie himself was more magnanimous than usual about the Americans - 'Carl Lewis apart'.

He said: 'I'm prepared to share the title of No 1because we all get along, but I won't have anyone above me - side by side, yes.'

Christie also took the opportunity of challenging rumour-mongers who suggest that his achievements may be pharmaceutically assisted. 'I'm clean,' he said. 'I'll take any test they like. They can put up their money against my money and I'll prove I'm clean.'

Having earlier in the week banked a quantity of gold bars worth pounds 80,000 for winning at all the 'golden four' meetings this year, Christie's business partner, Colin Jackson, was hardly concerned about the fact that his 110m hurdles race yesterday was only an invitation event. Nevertheless, the race involved him in one of his tightest finishes of the season. Only over the last two flights did he fight off a challenge from his training partner the Olympic champion Mark McKoy. Even so, Jackson's thoughts of a record were forgotten in a time of 13.08sec, which disappointed him. He said: 'I would have liked a better time but I never expected to break the world record today. All I was concerned about was keeping my own unbeaten record.'

Noureddine Morceli, the Algerian world record holder, merely needed to win the 1500m to take the men's overall title and become even richer, but he woke yesterday with a heavy cold and said he was pulling out. But he turned up and won the race with his familiar last-lap burst.

England's Commonwealth Games silver medal winner, Du'aine Ladejo, was conclusively brought back to the reality of a wider world of higher competition when more or less giving up and placing only seventh in the 400m. Powerful finishing by the American Derek Mills kept the equally fast-finishing Antonio Pettigrew in second place while Roger Black, who looked strong in the early stages, faded as you would expect from someone still recovering from so many injuries.

The debilitating length and pressure of this season caught up with Sonia O'Sullivan, the Irish runner who has been so dominant this season but has perhaps run too much. Although for a long time in yesterday's 5,000m she held a formidable lead, and with a final kick repelled the opposition, she needed a time of 14min 45.89sec to guarantee victory in the women's final standings but had to settle for a comparatively modest 15min 12.94sec.

British interest here has remained under the cloud of the drugs scandal. So the responsibility for salvaging the future of British athletics as a credible sport hung heavily on the shoulders of the elite competitors.