Athletics / European Championships: Vintage Britons share golden night: Christie and Backley retain 100 metres and javelin titles to ease the off-track disappointments at European Championships

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The Independent Online
BRITAIN'S European Championships started to go to plan last night as Linford Christie equalled Valery Borzov's record of three consecutive 100 metres titles in this event with a performance of disdainful power.

That, and Steve Backley's unexpected achievement of retaining the javelin title he won four years ago in Split, amounted to a welcome lift for a team that has had to come to terms in consecutive days with Solomon Wariso's expulsion following a positive drug test and the withdrawal with injury of the 200 metres favourite John Regis.

Christie's victory, in 10.14sec, was hardly a surprise given his demonstration on Sunday that he had recovered from the hamstring injury which had hampered his preparations. Geir Moen, of Norway, gave him a run for his money to finish in second place in 10.20, with Russia's Alexander Porkhomovsky taking the bronze in 10.31.

As Christie strolled over to the British supporters afterwards, he seemed satisfied rather than delighted.

'It was good,' Christie said. 'But I'm disappointed by the time. I have the championship, which is all that really matters. I don't put pressure on myself, I let the others take the pressure. I just go out there and run the best I know how to. Once I knew I was over the injury, no one was going to beat me.'

He seemed more excited afterwards for Backley than for himself. 'I was watching every one of Steve's throws and to see him win was fantastic. He can be the best in the world for years if he wants to be. It was a fantastic boost to see him win.'

It was a fantastic boost for Backley, too. 'If I walked away now nobody would really be bothered,' he said, referring to the way his event was generally regarded outside Finland. 'So to compete in a stadium where everybody is bothered about every throw and to produce the goods under pressure is a dream come true.'

Having seen that, Christie told himslef that he,too, had to win gold when he walked to the blocks 20 minutes later.

Before the start, he stared down the line with the kind of concentration he had summoned before the Olympic final two years ago. There was not a flicker as his name was announced; he looked like an Easter Island statue.

There was a false start. Then another, this time from Christie. He acknowledged the fact with a magisterial arm in the air. Again the gun went, again the recall gun sounded. This time it was the Ukrainian, Oleg Kramarenko.

Finally they got away. Christie, aware that he could not afford another false start, did not show early on. But between 30 and 50 metres he found his rhythm and put the rest of the field behind him. His face was as intense as it had been in Barcelona or Stuttgart; he did not look to either side until he was over the line in a time just 0.01sec faster than he ran in winning his first European title eight years ago.

It was a measure of his confidence that he was soon wearing a T-shirt thrown to him from the crowd which spelled out his record - 3 x GOLD. 1986 Stuttgart. 1990 Split. 1994 Helsinki.

It has been a trying few days for Christie, who as team captain was involved in arguing a case for Wariso to lodge an appeal to the IAAF and continue running until such time as a test on a second sample proved positive. He lost that battle with the British Athletic Federation, but never looked remotely likely to lose the one which faced him last night, for all the Norwegian's determined effort.

As he looks beyond these championships, the prospect of retaining his Commonwealth title as well seems highly likely. The shock of 15 July, when he limped away from a 100m defeat clutching the back of his left leg, has turned out not to be a serious portent after all. Jason John, who did well to reach the final, finished last in 10.46.

The women's title went, as expected, to Russia's Irina Privalova, who won in 11.02sec and looks capable of matching Katrin Krabbe's sprint double of four years ago.

Gary Cadogan and Peter Crampton reached tomorrow's final of the 400m hurdles with determined performances. Crampton produced his second personal best in consecutive days, 49.26sec, as he pushed hard down the final straight to take the third qualifying place in his heat behind two of the favourites, Stephane Diagana and Oleg Tverdokhleb. Cadogan too had to work hard to take the fourth place in his heat with a time of 49.42.

The women's triple jump title went to Anna Biryukova of Russia, who recorded 14.89metres. Britain's Michelle Griffith was eleventh with 13.60.

The women's 800 metres semi- finals saw Ann Griffiths, who had come through as a fastest loser, qualify with some ease in third place. But Diane Modahl, for whom there had been high hopes after her European Cup win, failed to qualify after being badly bumped on the back straight.

A Russian hammer thrower, Sergei Kirmasov, faces a four-year ban after testing positive for the banned steroid stanozolol at a meeting in Germany in May.

----------------------------------------------------------------- YESTERDAY'S MEDAL-WINNERS ----------------------------------------------------------------- MEN'S 100M 1 Linford Christie. . . . . . . . . . . . . . Great Britain 2 Geir Moen. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Norway 3 Aleksandr Porkhomovskiy. . . . . . . . . . . . . . Russia MEN'S JAVELIN 1 Steve Backley. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Great Britain 2 Seppo Raty. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Finland 3 Jan Zelezny. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Czech Republic MEN'S 20KM WALK 1 Mikhail Shchennikov. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Russia 2 Yevgeniy Misyulya. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Belarus 3 Valentin Massana. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Spain WOMEN'S 100M 1 Irina Privalova. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Russia 2 Zhanna Tarnopolskaya. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Ukraine 3 Melanie Paschke. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Germany WOMEN'S TRIPLE JUMP 1 Anna Biryukova. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Russia 2 Inna Lasovskaya. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Russia 3 Inessa Kravets. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Ukraine -----------------------------------------------------------------

Backley's triumph, page 31

(Photograph omitted)

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