Athletics: Christie passes on baton

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LINFORD CHRISTIE, feeling the strain at the end of a long, arduous year, yesterday withdrew from the British 4x100 metres relay team due to race in the World Cup in Cuba.

But the problems British team management were having assembling a team to compete on Sunday were solved at a stroke when, with Christie's enthusiastic support as team captain, they selected the quartet which won the gold medal at the world junior championships in Seoul two days ago - Allyn Condon, Darren Campbell, James Baulch and Jason Fergus.

Christie, who arrived for a short period of preparation in the Bahamas yesterday with the rest of the British party, spoke with foreboding about what will be his final heave in a season which has seen him achieve the ultimate accolade of becoming Olympic champion.

'My whole body feels wrecked, bruised and aching,' he said. 'Even when I'm training and I come out of the blocks after maybe 10 or 20 metres I feel this pain shooting right down my back and my hamstring. My physiotherapist has warned me that I am probably suffering from sciatica and I've almost certainly got some problem which has to be seen to afterwards, even if I can survive the World Cup races.'

Now he is only talking about one race, on the Friday evening. For Christie's long-time coach, Ron Roddan, it is a trying time. 'Linford is knackered,' he said in characteristically direct fashion yesterday. 'After Havana he is going to take a break. And he needs it.'

For the foursome in question, however, opportunity knocks. Campbell, whom Christie has more than once identified as the man most likely to take over when he leaves off, and Baulch are 19; Fergus and Condon 18.

'Linford really pushed for the idea of the four lads running together and he is delighted for them,' said Frank Dick, the British director of coaching. 'One Sunday they run in the world juniors and the next they are rubbing shoulders with most of the best sprinters in the world. It's going to be a great experience for them.'

With Christie in need of running repairs, Marcus Adam injured, Tony Jarrett unavailable and John Regis already committed to the 200m and 4x400m relay, it has also been a timely face-saver for the British selectors.