Athletics / European Championship: Christie rages at fumble: Britain's team captain is left fuming after relay shambles ruins his chance of a second gold medal

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LINFORD CHRISTIE, the British athletics team captain who was criticised by the British Athletic Federation's executive chairman, Professor Peter Radford, for 'ill-advised' behaviour at the European Athletics Championships here, suffered more embarrassment last night when the sprint relay team he expected to lead to a gold medal failed to finish.

His team had been led off promisingly in the semi-final by Jason John, but when Darren Braithwaite tried to take the baton from Tony Jarrett, he clutched thin air and it dropped. The team had been practising hard all week but when it came to the day, the disastrous changeover left Christie, the 100 metres champion who was scheduled to run the anchor leg, fuming further down the track. He ripped off his vest and walked away.

Jarrett explained later: 'I thought I put the baton in his hand, but it was waving a bit. I thought he had it but I don't know what happened after that. I just want to go home.' The French retained their title in the absence of Britain, the strong pre-competition favourites, and the highly regarded Russians, who were disqualified for two false starts in the final.

Earlier, Professor Radford had said that the British Federation considered it 'ill-advised'of Christie to follow his 100m victory last Monday by putting on a T-shirt that indirectly advertised a running-shoe company. The Federation also considered that it was 'foolish' for him to go on to the in-field at the end of the men's high jump in which Steve Smith and Dalton Grant had competed.

Controversy has dogged the British team here. An inquiry is to be held in London within the next few days into the positive dope test which led to the banning from these championships of the sprinter Solomon Wariso who is expected to be asked the names of other British athletes who may have given him tablets from an American-bought pick- me-up called 'Up Your Gas' that contained the banned drug ephedrine.

Professor Radford said yesterday that no other athlete would be asked to appear at the inquiry to be headed by Sir Arthur Gold. He said: 'I'm not aware that any other British athletes have contravened any doping regulations.'

A medal of any kind yesterday would have given Christie one more than the championships record of six shared by the Italian Pietro Mennea and Germany's Harald Schmid. Eduard Hamalainen from Belarus was looking for his first and seemed certain to win it after starting the final day of the decathlon event 161 points ahead of the field.

No one in the world has run a faster decathlon hurdles than Hamalainen, but he appeared to leap out of the blocks in the day's first event too quickly. He clattered into the first hurdle and fell to the track holding his head in despair, taking no further part in thecompetition. In his absence a duel developed between Henrik Dagard, bidding to become the first Swedish man to win a gold medal for 32 years, and the 31-year-old Frenchman Alain Blondel. The veteran Blondel finally clinched it, by 8,453 points to 8,362.

British hopes of maintaining the success of the 1986 and 1990 European Championships when they won 15 and 18 medals respectively were fading last night with the relay fiasco, but a place among the top three is still probable after all of their established champions had individually lived up to their reputations.

Following gold medals from Christie, Steve Backley, who beat the Finns at their own javelin game, Du'aine Ladejo, who pushed the defending European champion Roger Black into the silver medal spot, Colin Jackson, predictable winner of the 110m hurdles, and the ever reliable Sally Gunnell (400m hurdles), there was some clutching at straws for an improvement in the total. Jonathan Edwards, a triple jumper with great potential, failed to help by finishing sixth, and a women's sprint relay team came a gutsy fifth after the unexpected German winners, who overcame the Russians.

British middle-distance running, which sank to an all-time low on Tuesday when David Strang and Gary Lough, the

latter-day successors to Seb Coe, Steve Ovett and Steve Cram, finished in the last two places of the 1500m, has a belated opportunity to redeem itself this afternoon because Rob Denmark has survived the heats of the 5,000m as has Craig Winrow in the 800m. Denmark faces the Olympic champion from Germany Dieter Baumann. Denmark, seventh at the last Olympics, and Richard Nerurkar, the on-form marathon runner, are the last remaining serious British hopes of individual success on the last day of the championships, while Sally Gunnell's 4 x 400m team, who comfortably qualified for today's final, will take some beating.

(Photograph omitted)

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