Athletics Johnson denied in record attempt

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reports from Lausanne

The elements were against Michael Johnson here last night as he attempted to break the world 200 metres record. Both the wind and the element of luck.

By the time he took to the track, the meeting was running half an hour late because of a succession of false starts, the evening air was cooling and the flags on the rim of the stadium were being stretched and tugged.

Johnson, with his characteristic, chopping stride, won in 19.96sec, ahead of the world champion Frankie Fredericks, who ran 20.07, and Linford Christie, third in 20.12, who thus gave himself cause for satisfaction after being, by his own admission, left in the blocks in the 100m earlier. John Regis, too, performed with honour, his fourth place in 20.28 something of a surprise following his recent poor form.

The question of whether either British runner would take part in tomorrow night's Crystal Palace grand prix remained in the air. But one of the potential hold-ups in the negotiation may have been erased by Regis's performance. The Nuff Respect attitude has been one of "all-for-one, one- for-all". But the British Athletic Federation will feel happier about offering Regis the rate demanded now that he has shown deserving form.

Christie would not be drawn afterwards about whether he and his fellow Nuff Respect athletes would accept the new financial offer made to them by the BAF. "The ball is in their court," he said." Earlier in the day, the BAF executive chairman, Peter Radford, had expressed optimism about the eventual outcome. "It is virtually certain that they will be running in some of the British meetings," he said. An announcement is expected today.

In a 100m race which contained almost all his rivals for his world title next month, Christie got away to a bad start and never recovered, finishing fourth in 10.03 behind the winner, Mike Marsh, who recorded 9.96 with the benefit of a following wind of 2.3 metres per second, just over the legal limit.

Marsh, the Olympic 200m champion, won the US trials over 100m this year in a relatively slow time of 10.23, since when he has worked hard at improving his technique. "I have been learning to relax under pressure with the big guys," he said. The lesson appeared well learnt last night as he came through to finish well clear.

Donovan Bailey, of Canada, was second in 10.02, with Dennis Mitchell and Christie third and fourth respectively in the same time. Christie, whose 100m time was his fastest this season despite his poor start, nevertheless expressed satisfaction with the way his season was going. "I'm getting faster and faster," he said.

Earlier in the evening Merlene Ottey, with a following wind of 1.9 metres per second - just inside the legal limit - bettered her own world best time of the year by winning in 10.92.

Roger Black, returning after the knee injury which kept him out of the Gateshead meeting on Sunday, ran a committed 400m and was rewarded by a time of 44.59, which equalled the personal best he set nine years ago in winning the European title. Black finished third behind two of the leading Americans, Derek Mills, and the bizarrely hooded and sunglassed winner, Darnell Hall, who ran 44.34.

In the absence of Colin Jackson, the 110m hurdles was won by the 1988 Olympic champion, Roger Kingdom, in 13.11. Over the 400m hurdles, France's Stephane Diagana beat Harald Schmid's 13-year-old European record with 47.37, beating in the process the American who defeated him on home ground two days earlier, Derrick Adkins.

Venuste Niyongabo, of Burundi, underlined his position as the man most likely to displace the great Noureddine Morceli over the middle distance events as he won the 1500m in 3min 32.38sec, the fastest time in the world this year.

The rumour factory was working at full production here yesterday over the payments issue. It was understood that Jackson had reached a position of being happy with what he was being offered by the BAF, but was seeking not to be tied into running all the remaining domestic meetings.

Jackson, who returned home after finishing third in Paris on Monday behind the Americans, Mark Crear and Allen Johnson, is suffering from the after- effects of tonsillitis, and does not appear to be fit enough to run at Crystal Palace. Whether he is ready to run as planned in Sunday's Welsh Games is also in doubt.

The Brits were not the only ones negotiating yesterday. Johnson met the International Olympic Committee president, Juan Antonio Samaranch, to try to re-arrange the Olympic schedule so he can double up at 200 and 400m. It was a helpful conversation, according to Johnson's agent, Brad Hunt. Perhaps that result will come too, along with the record.