Athletics: Christie pays respects to protege Malcolm

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The Independent Online
IT WAS meant to be a home welcome for Wales' new young hero, Christian Malcolm, at last night's Welsh Games here. But Malcolm, the double gold medallist at last week's World Junior Championships, was just too weary after his exertions in France, especially for a demanding competitive domestic 100 metres that included Colin Jackson and Doug Walker.

Nine races in six days had taken its toll on Malcolm, the 19-year-old from Gwent who won the 100 and 200 metres world junior titles in Annecy. Last night's grand welcoming home party, therefore, was restricted to a run in a low-key relay and a presentation to recognise the achievements of Malcolm, 19, by his manager, Linford Christie.

It will now fall to Christie and his Nuff Respect agency to help to maximise the youngster's earning potential, without having him over-race before representing Wales at next month's Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, a difficult path to negotiate successfully.

If anything, the most difficult part of the task will be choosing the right offers to turn down, for Malcolm has the sort of speed and acceleration which has already earned the plaudits from the likes of the former Olympic 100m champions Allan Wells and Carl Lewis, and could soon be earning him dollars from international meeting directors.

Until now, Malcolm's biggest pay-day was the pounds 700 he won two years ago in the Peebles Sprint, at an old-fashioned, Highland Games-style meeting staged on a grass track. But Malcolm will be entering a professional sport in a different financial environment than that which greeted the last Welshman to win a world junior gold.

When Colin Jackson graduated from the junior ranks in 1986, there were multi-million pound sponsorship deals coming into the sport in Britain. Last night's meeting in Cardiff is a sign of things to come, though. Only the meetings with the biggest budgets - such as Zurich next week, for example - can still afford the first-class transport, five-star hotels and lucrative appearance fees that were once the norm even for the most modest competitor.

For Cardiff last night, what funding there was came from the local authority, plus backing from hotels providing some rooms for the night. The athletes, by and large, were competing for nothing.