Athletics: Christie suffers final indignity

OLYMPIC GAMES: High drama as champion is disqualified and Bailey kicks up a storm to capture the gold and the world record
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The Independent Online
Linford Christie's reign as Olympic champion ended here at the very moment that Britain's greatest hope for a gold medal, Jonathan Edwards, sank to his knees near the triple jump pit, knowing that he had won only silver. Afterwards, however, he said: "I'm not angry; it's a waste of time. I'm a proud man and I will be back."

Christie's attempt to retain his title at the age of 36 came to a sad end when he was disqualified after two false starts. He questioned the second, but the video evidence showed there was no doubt he was the culprit. A long wait ensued, and finally he had to walk away towards the tunnel to become a spectator as Donovan Bailey, of Canada, won after a fourth attempt to start the race in a world record of 9.84 seconds. Frankie Fredericks of Namibia was the man in form and Christie, his training partner, knew it only too well. Christie shot away at the first time of asking and had the race been run at that stage rather than recalled that start could have brought him at least a medal.

Beads of sweat broke on his brow as he went back, probably knowing that his chance had gone. Another late recall after Ato Boldon of Trinidad broke away too quickly and you could tell that Christie was seeing his last opportunity fading away. He had to blast away again but was too fast. Called back, he turned in disbelief to the judges and mouthed "What's that for?" The answer came clearly from the video evidence.

Merlene Ottey's long wait to win a major 100 metres title goes on, and she is never likely to come closer than last night when she was given the same time, 10.94, as the champion, Gail Devers of the United States. In an amazingly close finish, the Jamaican again missed out by a fingernail's width. Retaining her title involved a long wait for Devers, who stood on the track for several minutes before the result was announced. At that she almost flew into the arms of her coach, Bob Kersee.

Britain's 400m record holder Roger Black gave one of his most impressive performances of a long career when qualifying for today's semi-final. He judged his race expertly, running powerfully on the back straight before taking complete control of the race on the final bend and winning in 44.72 sec, compared with his record of 44.37sec. As he approached the line, he was confident enough to be looking from side to side to guarantee his safety. There was never any question of that.

Du'aine Ladejo had the doubtful privilege of running against, or in the event well behind, the daunting American Michael Johnson who toyed with the field in his second round heat leaving Ladejo sixth with only the relay to come as possible compensation.

Iwan Thomas made some amends in what is supposed to be Britain's strongest track event when he ran a strong and well considered heat to finish second, slightly behind Alvin Harrison of the United States, whose time was 44.80sec. So Johnson looks even more certain to be the one-lap champion.

A typically gutsy performance by Kelly Holmes took her into tomorrow's 800m final. Drawn in the same semi-final as the world champion Ana Fidelia Quirot, of Cuba, for a time she seemed to be slow but she always remained within striking distance of the safe fourth place that would take her into the final. In fact a powerful burst on the outside of the front five women took her to third in a creditable time of 1min 58.49sec.

On a downcast morning, Britain suffered an immediate setback when their two women's 400m runners, Phyllis Smith and Donna Fraser, were both eliminated in the heats. Smith could only manage sixth and Fraser seventh in an event that is going to be a fascinating contest between the defending champion, Marie-Jose Perec, of France, the Commonwealth champion Cathy Freeman and Grit Breuer.

As if the general mood was not sombre enough, one of the Games' most successful athletes, the former world and Olympic champion Jackie Joyner- Kersee, of the United States, is expected to retire after limping out of the 100m hurdles section of the heptathlon yesterday.

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