Athletics: Christie still ready to run for Britain

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The Independent Online
After those false starts in Atlanta, Linford Christie contrived a false finish here last night.

A close to capacity 11,387 crowd gathered by the banks of the Tyne to witness what had been billed as the 64th and final appearance in a British vest by the country's most bemedalled athlete. Unlike the 83,000 who packed the Centennial Stadium to see the Olympic 100 metres final, they saw the veteran sprinter in action.

But Christie then produced his second volte-face of the summer, following his not-so-surprising decision to run in Atlanta after all with an unexpected declaration of his willingness to rally to the national cause again next year.

Having previously announced that his spikes would be used solely for club competition from the end of this season, the 36-year-old British team captain revealed: "I told Malcolm Arnold [Britain's director of coaching] today I will do the European Cup next year because it's in Munich and as a favour to my doctor. That will be it."

Thus the finish line to Christie's distinguished international career was shifted from 10 seconds past 8.40 at Gateshead last night to 28 and 29 June next year in Munich's Olympic stadium. The German city happens to be the home of Christie's medical guru, Hans Wilhelm Muller-Wohlfahrt.

Christie's last hurrah for Britain was to have been in the 100m last night against Donovan Bailey, the man who succeeded him as Olympic champion in Atlanta. By a twist of irony, however, Christie did not line up against the Canadian.

Christie twisted a knee while rounding the bend in the 200m and restricted his night's work to his second-string event. It was nearly a victorious half-shift. Christie led into the home-straight but lost out by 0.02sec to the strong-finishing John Regis, who stopped the track-side clock at 10.62.

Tyneside has a dear place in Christie's heart, though, and that may have influenced his decision. It was at Gateshead in 1979 that Christie made his baptism in the international arena. A gangling teenager, he finished sixth in his 100m heat in the Amoco Games, clocking 11.18 as an anonymous young also-ran in the slipstream of Allan Wells.

It was at Gateshead, in 1989, that Christie celebrated his election as team captain by leading Britain to their only European Cup success with the third of his seven successive 100m victories in the competition. It was there, too, that he enjoyed his biggest pay-day: pounds 100,000 for the 10.08sec it took him to beat Carl Lewis in 1993.

That track record survived the attentions of the man who has followed Wells, Lewis and Christie as Olympic 100m champion. After warming up in a Newcastle United strip, which displayed his world record figures on the back (9.84), Bailey eased to victory in what by his standards was a modest 10.19.

While the Canadian conducted trackside interviews with Les Ferdinand and Peter Beardsley, another of the four Atlanta gold medallists to grace the meeting was finding life less comfortable as, for the second time since he was obliged to settle for a silver lining in Atlanta, Jonathan Edwards beat Kenny Harrison.

The American's best triple jump, 16.60m, was only enough for third place. Francis Agyepong, with 16.62, was runner-up to Edwards, whose 17.38 secured his 26th win in 27 competitions. Harrison's United States team-mates and fellow Olympic champions, high jumper Charles Austin (with 2.30m) and high hurdler Allen Johnson (13.25), successfully upheld their recently- acquired reputations.

Britain's impressive winners in a Bupa Challenge meeting contrived as a match between the hosts and an international select, who won 121-113, included Roger Black in the 400m (44.64) and Paula Radcliffe in the 3,000m (8min 56.25sec). But it was Britain's runner-up in the 200m who stole the show, far from retiring though he was.