Athletics: Christie's tactical mistake: Olympic champion let down by slow start

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A NEW tactic cost Linford Christie his six-year unbeaten record against British sprinters at the AAA Indoor Championships in Birmingham on Saturday.

His coach, Ron Roddan, told him to stay low longer when he came out of the blocks, but Christie mis- judged it and by the time he had got into full stride, Michael Rosswess had too big an advantage even for the world and Olympic 100 metres champion to close, although both were given the same time of 6.56sec after a photo finish.

It showed once again what a lottery the 60m can be for Christie, whose strength in the longer sprint is his power in the second half of the race. Christie should have heeded the warning he had received earlier in the week when Rosswess had been beating him when the pair were practising their starts.

Rosswess, whose style is as ungainly as Christie's is smooth, has not made the progress many people predicted after he finished seventh in the 1988 Olympic 200m final in only his second season in the sport. But his time here was a personal best, and installed him as the new favourite to win the gold medal at next month's European Indoor Championships in Paris, although Colin Jackson should perhaps not be written off, despite finishing only third.

There were surprises of a different kind in Alnwick at the UK trials for the World Cross- country Championships. One of the favourites in the women's race, Alison Wyeth, came unstuck. Feeling out of sorts after a spell of altitude training, she finished only eighth.

The new selection policy dictated the first five women over the line were assured of places in Budapest on 26 March, leaving the selectors with one discretionary spot, which they gave to Liverpool's Jenny Clague. Clague admitted yesterday that she did not know whether she would be ready, having not raced since December because of injury.