Athletics: Christie hoping for sharp performance

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The Independent Online
LINFORD CHRISTIE gets back to the sharp end of athletics today as he comes temporarily out of retirement to contest the 60 metres at the Lynx Express AAA Indoor Championships in Birmingham.

The former world and Olympic 100m champion, who will be 39 in April, will not be able to shave for six months if he fails to beat 6.70sec for the distance - a challenge laid down to him by the group of athletes he now coaches, including European 100m champion Darren Campbell and world indoor 400m silver medallist Jamie Baulch.

The younger runners, tired of hearing Christie tell them how he could still beat them even though he had retired from top class racing in 1997, set him a target which he could not resist trying for. But Christie looks likely to remain clean shaven given his performance in last Sunday's Karlsruhe indoor 60 metres race, where he finished second to Marc Blume of Germany in a time of 6.57sec in what was his first competitive race since he turned out for his club, Thames Valley Harriers, last August.

Christie will face a younger generation of challengers at the National Indoor Arena, including Jason Livingston, who has recorded 6.61 this season, European indoor silver medallist Jason Gardener and world junior 100 and 200 metres champion, Christian Malcolm.

The event gives UK Athletics, whose midweek launch was overshadowed by the doping controversy surrounding European 200 metres champion Doug Walker, the opportunity to get back on to the kind of track it prefers.

A ruling on whether Walker will have a case to answer after providing two urine tests believed to have shown up traces indicating the banned steroid nandrolone is expected to be made early next week.

Christie is not the only world title winner at the National Indoor Arena. Steve Cram, the former world record holder for the mile, will be making his commentating debut for BBC, who cover their first domestic athletics meeting since 1985.

Cram was commentating for Channel 4 last season but has been signed up by the Beeb since they took over the athletics contract last autumn in a five-year deal thought to be worth around pounds 15m.

The man who used to be known as the Jarrow Arrow will be working alongside David Coleman, who at the age of 72 is "cutting back on his commentary" according to a BBC spokesman.

Ashia Hansen, who won the European indoor triple jump last year in a world record, is due to gauge her current form in what serves as the official trial for the World Indoor Championships to be held in Maebashi, Japan, in March. Winners will qualify automatically, assuming they have qualifying marks.

Jo Wise, who like Hansen won a Commonwealth title last September, is an entrant for the women's long jump.

While Christie runs the shorter distance, Campbell is concentrating on tomorrow's 200 metres event, which Malcolm is also intending to contest. Campbell says he doesn't want to beat his coach, which is very thoughtful of him.

The longer sprint looks like being just as competitive as the 60 metres, given that it is also due to include 400 metres runners Solomon Wariso, who returned from warm weather training in California just over a week ago, and Jamie Baulch.

In the high jump, Olympic bronze medallist Steve Smith is planning to take part in his first competition since he injured his neck in a training accident last July. Smith, who spent almost two weeks in hospital after his injury, completed his first proper jump earlier this month.

Colin Jackson, who retained his European high hurdles title last summer, is a clear favourite for the 60m hurdles title, having warmed up for the event by winning over that distance in Karlsruhe, where he clocked 7.47sec.

Du'Aine Ladejo, the former European 400m champion who is now concentrating on the decathlon, is among the other competitors due to contest the event, as is Paul Gray, the 1994 Commonwealth high hurdles bronze medallist.