Athletics: Christie plays the laughing champion: Olympian shows his touch of class

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The Independent Online
THE reaction of Linford Christie upon realising that he had needlessly sprinted 70 metres after a false start said nearly everything about Saturday's Pearl European Relay meeting at Portsmouth. He laughed.

The Olympic champion, running the first leg in the medley relay, appeared to find this season-opening event as relaxing as it was intended to be. But there is no such thing as a totally relaxed athlete. Even Christie entered the action with a little doubt about whether the back injury which caused him to miss a total of six weeks' winter training would hold up. 'I got round all right,' he said. 'I've got no problem at all.'

Which means he will run over 200m in Rome this week before his first standard race of the season at his speciality distance, at next weekend's UK Championships.

Steve Cram, devoting at least the major part of his efforts to 5,000m this season, is also likely to be at Crystal Palace. He will travel in good spirits after his first victory of note since October 1991 over an invitation 3,000m field that included his training partner, Gary Staines, and the London Marathon winner Eamonn Martin.

Although Cram protested afterwards that the race should have been no more than a gentle jog for all concerned, he knew that far more was expected of him. His performance in last month's 5km road race at Aberdeen, where he finished at a jog after feeling a calf muscle twinge, was seen as less than convincing in some quarters. 'A lot of people have been saying that this race was make or break for me,' he said after finishing in 7min 54.22sec.

Cram felt that was an absurd position; but he acknowledged that it had been important to win, not least for the fact that it would get his name in a prominent position once again. 'At least two promoters were mildly surprised that I was still running at all when I contacted them recently,' he said. 'I have been trying to tell people for a while that I am not finished.'

Katharine Merry and Clova Court figured prominently for Birchfield Ladies as the British club finished seventh out of 22 in the final of the European Club championships in Limassol, Cyprus.

'Gladiator' Kate Staples yesterday set seven British records in the pole vault at the Solent Games. Staples' final mark in the new event was 3.55m.