Bailey has the twinkle of a star

Who is sprint king? Mike Rowbottom thinks style and aura give Canada's champion an edge over his rival athletes

Everybody knows Donovan Bailey is a champion. The question now remains: is he a star?

Michael Johnson, of whom the same question has long been asked, effected the transition by winning the Olympic 200-400 metres double in his home country last summer - even if the events of 1997 have dimmed his star's lustre.

While the American's achievements in Atlanta were widely celebrated, those of the Canadian - an Olympic 100m title in a world record time of 9.84sec - remained relatively unsung.

But since he ran clear of the injured Johnson over 150 metres in Toronto on 1 June, earning himself $1.5 million (pounds 925,000) in the process, Bailey's fortunes have risen in inverse proportion to those of the double Olympic gold medallist.

Johnson has failed to regain form following the quadricep injury which halted him half-way through the self-styled One-To-One Challenge, and his poor showing in Paris on Wednesday night, when he lost his eight-year unbeaten record over 400m, caused him to make an early return home from Europe.

Bailey has since run 9.94sec in Nuremburg, and his winning time of 10.07sec in the rainswept Paris meeting indicates he is a clear favourite to win his latest 150m challenge at Sheffield tomorrow against a domestic field headed by Linford Christie.

The financial incentive of tomorrow's Securicor Challenge - a winner- takes-all figure of pounds 50,000 - is relatively slight for a man whose last 150m race was worth pounds 10,000 per metre.

But Britain's finest will be hard pushed to prevent the 29-year-old world and Olympic champion adding to his bank balance.

Bailey is predicting that he will better his world record this season - "I know I am very capable of running faster than I did last year" - and you would be foolish to bet against it.

Christie has won his two previous meetings with Bailey over Sunday's distance in Sheffield but Bailey predicted a different result this time: "I'm in better shape than before," he said. "I'm faster and stronger and lighter - I'm about 8lb down on this time last year."

There are marked similarities between Christie and Bailey - both were born in Jamaica and spent their early childhoods there before emigrating; both were relative latecomers to top level sprinting.

Christie did not win his first major title until he was 26; Bailey did not even break 11 seconds for 100m until he was 23. Having taken up the sport seriously in 1993, however, he has improved his time every year.

When Bailey decided to give up his lucrative career as a marketing and property consultant to concentrate on his running, he approached it as if it were another line of business, leaving his girlfriend, Michelle Mullin, and baby daughter, Adrienna, behind in Oakville in order to train with his present coach, Dan Pfaff, at Louisiana State University.

"I basically took it on as a job," he said. "I was going to work really hard in '94 and see where it took me."

It took him to Gothenburg, where he took the world title off Christie; then to Atlanta, where he defeated the pre-race favourites, Ato Boldon and Frankie Fredericks.

If star status needs to be bedded in achievement, Bailey has what is required. He is a quirky, intelligent individual. And while he has a background in marketing and a meticulous approach in common with Johnson, there is a twinkle to him which is absent from the American. At times, you can sense him delighting in stirring up mischief.

Last year, for instance, he smiled broadly at a press conference in London as he contended that Linford Christie had faked injury in the previous year's World Championship final.

He levelled the same accusation against Johnson in Toronto, clearly offending the American with the brutal directness of his accusation - "he knew he was going to get hammered after the first 30 metres."

The effect was not mitigated by the subsequent, diplomatic statement from the Bailey camping wishing Johnson a speedy recovery from his injury.

Johnson may still argue that that unofficial title of world's fastest man is undecided, given that he failed to last the course in Canada.

Bailey also appears to have gone back on his immediate dismissal of any re-match with Johnson - yesterday his agent, Ray Flynn, said he was "totally serious" in proposing a re-match later this year in a Las Vegas parking lot.

"There has been a great deal of interest shown in a rematch and I think the people supporting Michael Johnson would be very keen on another race as their man did not do himself justice in Toronto," Flynn said. "You can lay a Mondo strip of track anywhere and if the money was right, a parking lot at one of the big Las Vegas hotels could be the ideal place to stage the race."

Yesterday, Bailey dropped another contentious comment into the conversation when he put forward the case for Christie re-thinking his decision not to compete in this summer's world championships.

"Linford is still fast enough and consistent enough to be there," Bailey said. "He comes out and puts in the performances year after year. You have to respect the guy's decision, but I think he should finish his career at the World Championships.

"People go on about his age but Linford never shows it. Don't expect me to be still running at 37 - I'll be playing golf or something.

"One day I'll decide that's it. I'll give this thing the biggest shot possible and then I'll walk off. It won't be in 10 years or eight years' time - it will be less than that."

The story goes that soon after his Olympic victory, Bailey was refused entry to a Toronto nightclub. "Don't you recognise who I am?" he asked.

The case is altered for him now - certainly in his home country. After his win over Johnson on the eve of Canada's general election, the front page headline on the Toronto Sun newspaper read: Bailey for Prime Minister.

With Johnson absent from this summer's world championships - unless a late and unprecedented wild card should be produced by the international federation - Bailey has the chance to run the show himself. The chances are he will revel in it.

Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
Arts and Entertainment
Ricardo by Edward Sutcliffe, 2014
artPortraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb go on display
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'