Athletics: Christie has fast answer

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THERE was one overriding question which animated the damp and lacklustre proceedings on the first day of the Pearl British Championships yesterday. Was anyone going to take advantage of Linford Christie's lack of sharpness to become the first Briton to defeat him over 100 metres since 1986? The answer was not when it mattered.

The Olympic champion, whose training has been disrupted by a back injury, was actually beaten once - in qualifying from the semi-final behind Toby Box, a startled 20-year-old from Stockport, who lowered his personal best from 10.64sec to 10.34 in the process.

'1, Box; 2, Christie' was no more than a passing novelty on the scoreboard, however. In the final, Christie matched the start of his training partner Colin Jackson and took control of the race to finish clear in 10.26. Jackson finished in 10.41.

'There was no one out there able to beat me,' Christie said. It would have been interesting had John Regis, who heads the British standings with 10.15 this year, chosen to run. He goes in the 200m today - and if the weather is good, Christie, whose threat to miss the European Cup on 26-27 June has vanished, may join him.

Christie took the opportunity to set free two bees which were buzzing in his bonnet. Some of the press coverage following his seventh place in the Rome 200m on Wednesday caused him to wax wrath. 'I don't have a problem,' he said. 'I just need to race.'

And while we were on the subject of the press, the coverage given to the failures of the England football team, and the exact condition of Paul Gascoigne, also excited comment from the captain of Britain's athletics team.

'The football team get back-page news even when they do badly,' he said. 'If everyone in our team broke a world record and Gazza scored a goal it would still be the same. But we are Britain's most successful and No 1 sport. The reason our other teams are not winning is because they are not in shape. There are no Gazzas in our team. Even the shot putters are in better shape than he is.'

A crowd of around 4,000 - hardly evidencing an overwhelming response to Britain's No 1 sport - witnessed a men's 10,000m world championship trial which underlined Britain's thin resources at a distance where they have traditionally been strong.

With Eamonn Martin pre-selected, there were - theoretically - two more places in Stuttgart to compete for. Richard Nerurkar, an Olympic finalist, was not among the contenders, having chosen to concentrate on running in the World Marathon Cup in October.

The winner was another finalist in Barcelona, Paul Evans, who took over from the Kenyan pacemaker, Lameck Aguta, at halfway and finished the length of the straight ahead in 28min 17.49sec. His time was outside the qualifying mark of 28:07, and although he already has a time inside that he has already been selected to run the marathon.

With the nearest man to him, Dave Lewis, running only 28:32, the selectors are not likely to look favourably on extending the deadline for qualification, even though the team does not need to be finalised until 10 days before the championships start on 14 August.

'I was surprised at how easily I got away,' Evans said. 'But I'm set on the marathon now. I believe I have more of a chance of a medal there than in the 10,000.'

The triple jump provided a genuine frisson of competition as Jonathan Edwards's distance of 17.04m was superseded by Tosi Fasinro, of Haringey, with 17.30, the fourth longest by a Briton.

Results, Sport in Short, Page 30

(Photograph omitted)

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