Athletics: Malcolm laughs off the heirs and races

Mike Rowbottom meets the latest young sprinter to be put under the spotlight as a natural successor to Linford Christie
Click to follow
The Independent Online
IT IS Christian Malcolm's turn to be the new Linford Christie. His stunning performance at the recent World Junior Championships in Annecy, where he ran away with both the 100 and 200 metres events, has led many observers towards that conclusion that this is the natural heir to the man who won Olympic, world, European and Commonwealth 100m titles before retiring last summer.

But any fears that such speculation might prove burdensome to this 19 year old from Newport are soon dispelled by his own clear-eyed - and amused - assessment of his situation.

He knows as well as anyone that the British sprinting scene, post-Christie, is full of emerging talent and that he is only the latest contender to find a place in the sun. "Week in, week out, we have had a 'new Linford'," he says with a chuckle and proceeds to run through the card.

First came Ian Mackie, who defeated Christie twice last year. Since then the emphasis has shifted in turn to Malcolm's friend Dwain Chambers, who ran a world junior record of 10.06sec, Marlon Devonish, Darren Campbell - and now Malcolm.

He believes the fact that there are so many contenders has lightened the potential burden of expectation by sharing it around, and also improved general standards. "Linford opened the doors for all the other British guys," he said. "There is such competition now that times are soon going to come down. People are going to have to run 10.00 or 10.10 to win the British title."

Tomorrow night Malcolm is going to have to think in terms of running similar times himself as he takes up an invitation to run against the best in the world at the Weltklasse meeting in Zurich. It will be only his second experience of a grand prix meeting - the first came at the same venue last summer when he was invited as European 100m silver medallist and 200m champion to race against a field which included Chambers and his own hero, the legendary Carl Lewis, who was making a farewell appearance.

The experience electrified an 18 year old who had given up a promising career in football - he was on Nottingham Forest's books - on the advice of his coach, Jock Anderson. "I couldn't believe the noise the crowd made," he said. "Even when we were getting changed for the race, Dwain and I were going to each other: 'Look at this! Look at that! What is this like!' And when we were on our marks - the organisers had put us either side of Carl - the crowd went totally quiet. They had such respect for the event."

Just over 10 seconds later, the respect had been transferred to his friend and himself. Chambers and Malcolm finished one and two with Lewis third, and the American promptly invited them both to share his lap of honour.

"If I make the final in Zurich it will be great," he said. "I'm just excited about going there." Thereafter Malcolm, who lives in his family home in Newport along with his mother, Yvonne, and father, Nigel, is likely to rest up before competing for Wales in next month's Commonwealth Games. He can afford to look upon anything else that happens to him this season as a bonus, having achieved his main objective.

"I went to Annecy knowing that I was in the shape of my life," he said. "I couldn't wait to start running." The result was two gold medals and 100m and 200m personal bests of 10.12 and 20.44. But it was the style with which this young man, newly shorn of the dreadlocks he has sported for two years, accomplished victories that left a lasting impression. While his friend Chambers is a power runner, Malcolm appears to drift along - a Coe to Chambers' Ovett. In Annecy, he seemed to be driven forward by his own personal gust of wind.

He has enjoyed the attention his success has attracted, from local newspapers to Grandstand. Success is neither spoiling, nor fazing him. "I feel calm about the way things are going," he said. "I know I can achieve my own goals, and I don't mind being patient for a couple of years as a senior runner."

It remains to be seen how much further - and faster - Christian Malcolm can go. But whatever he does, it will be done in style.