Athletics: Christie has to endure the pain

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MANY leading athletes may have decided that the sixth World Cup, which starts in Cuba today, is an event too far. The International Amateur Athletic Federation may soon decide that, with the world championships now being held every two years, it is an event too much. But this weekend's activities in Havana - which involve teams representing Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, the former Soviet Union, Britain, Oceania and the United States - pull together an intriguing mix of weary world-beaters and eager up- and-comers. Reputations are there to be lost and made.

Linford Christie, for all his complaints this week about feeling 'wrecked, bruised and aching' after a long season, is nevertheless preparing for a busy weekend. A freak water skiing injury to John Regis - he collided with Christie - has ruled him out of the 200m and 4 x 400m relay and Christie, the team captain, is pressing his body into further service. He is pencilled in as Regis's replacement in both events, meaning a debut in the longer event. 'I am knackered - and if I thought about running the 200m and 4 x 400m relay as well in my condition, I probably wouldn't do it,' he said.

He added: 'As far as I'm concerned the World Cup is all about getting as many points as possible for the team,' he says. 'I don't know or care who's running against me and I don't care what time I run as long as I win.'

His chances of doing that today appear good, although he will have to beat the Olympics 100 and 200m silver medallist, Frankie Fredericks, of Africa. In the 200m he faces Olapade Adeniken, of Nigeria, and Robson Da Silva, of Brazil.

The selection of Colin Jackson in the 110m hurdles should ensure further healthy scoring. Jackson faces the Olympic silver medallist, Tony Dees, one of the strongest selections in a United States team including just one Olympic champion - Mike Stulce in the shot putt. Perhaps the Americans should have thought of appointing Carl Lewis as their team captain.

Five years ago, Jon Ridgeon was as experienced an international competitor as Christie is now, but then injuries struck. Having failed to qualify for this year's Olympics at 110m hurdles, in which he was the 1987 world championship silver medallist, he has turned, with dramatic success, to the 400m hurdles, with a little nudge from the British record holder, Kriss Akabusi. In Rieti last month, in only his sixth race at the distance, Ridgeon clocked 48.73sec. He is on the edge of world class, and a run against Africa's world champion, Samuel Matete, and American Dave Patrick should see him confirm that.

As a relative beginner in his event, Ridgeon has everything to gain from competing. Youth makes it the same for John Mayock, 21, who faces Fita Bayesa, of Africa, and Arturo Barrios, of the Americas, over 5,000m; Brendan Reilly, 20, who high jumps against the Olympic champion, Javier Sotomayor; Neil Winter, 19, who pole vaults against Phillipe Collet; Mark Richardson, 20, who runs 400m against Roberto Fernandez; and Britain's world junior champions at the 4 x 100m - Allyn Condon, Darren Campbell, James Baulch and Jason Fergus - who should face the French quartet who set a world record two years ago. That will truly be an experience.

TIMETABLE: Friday / Saturday: 11.0pm: Opening ceremony. 12.10am: Triple jump (w). 12.15: Javelin (w). 12.20: 400m hurdles (m); high jump (w). 12.30: 200m (w). 12.40: 800m (m). 12.55: 400m hurdles (w). 1.10: 100m (m). 1.15: Shot (m). 1.20: Long jump (m). 1.30: 1500m (w). 1.45: 10,000m (m). 2.30: 4 x 400m (w). Saturday / Sunday: 9.45pm: Hammer. 10.0: Pole vault. 11.0: 100m hurdles (w). 11.15: 400m (m). 11.20: Shot (w). 11.30: 800m (w). 11.35: Triple jump (m). 11.45: 3,000m steeplechase (m). 11.50: Discus (m). 12.05am: 100m (w). 12.25: 1500m (m). 12.40: 4 x 100m (m). 1.0: 10,000m (w). Sunday / Monday: 9.15pm: Discus (w). 10.0: 110m hurdles (m). 10.05: High jump (m). 10.30: 400m (w). 10.35: 200m (m). 10.55: 3,000m (w). 10.55: Javelin (m). 11.0: Long jump (w). 11.20: 4 x 100m (w). 11.35: 5,000m (m). 12.20am: 4 x 400m (m). 12.40: Closing ceremony. All times are BST

TELEVISION: Friday: BBC2 11.50pm-1.25am. Eurosport 12.0-2.30am. Saturday: BBC1 (highlights) 1.05-1.55pm; BBC1 11.55pm-12.40am. Eurosport (highlights) 11.0am-1.0pm; 9.0pm- 1.40am. Sunday: BBC2 (highlights) 12.35-1.25pm; BBC2 10.45pm-12.30am. Eurosport (highlights) 11.30am-1.30pm; 10.0pm-1.50am.