Boldon dismisses Christie's chances

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Linford Christie's chances of retaining his Olympic 100 metres title were dismissed here yesterday by Ato Boldon, who ran the second fastest time of the opening round and then went one better in the talking department.

"Linford won't run under 10 seconds here, I'm telling you," said Boldon, who confirmed his position as one of the strongest medal favourites behind Frankie Fredericks by recording 10.06sec in front of a crowd close to the 83,000 capacity, despite slowing over the last 30 metres.

Christie, who came through with a relatively conservative 10.26 as he placed second in his heat, kept his own counsel. But Boldon, a 22-year- old Trinidadian who took bronze in last year's World Championships, was more forthcoming.

"There is going to be a world record here. You heard it first from me," he said. "It could take 9.7 to win. I think it will certainly take 9.8. Jon Drummond and I fell out of bed at seven this morning and we still ran Ten O."

Asked who were favourites for the medals, he responded: "Me and two others. But the Americans won't get more than one."

Steve Smith provided Britain with one high jump finalist tomorrow, but Dalton Grant went out after failing to make the qualifying height of 2.28 metres.

That was a mark which 14 men achieved for the first time in history, leaving Grant, who cleared 2.26, as a somewhat unlucky loser.

Smith cleared the height at his second attempt, turning back to stare at the wobbling bar, daring it to fall. When it didn't, he celebrated with a back flip on the landing bed which raised a loud cheer of approval.

It was a satisfactory end to his day after a less than satisfactory opening. "I had to get up at 5.15 this morning, which was not very nice," he said. "The bus was delayed for 40 minutes and the driver kept hitting every bollard along the way, which was hardly the ideal preparation. But I'm confident I will jump well on Sunday. Anyone could win this."

Having said that, he cast doubt on the prospects of Cuba's reigning Olympic champion, Javier Sotomayor, who was clearly suffering all morning with the effects of an injury to his left knee.

After removing his protective strapping, Sotomayor made his necessary clearance, but then sank down on one knee in discomfort before limping away.

"He's not looking good," Smith said. "I don't think he's going to win a medal."

Among those who will feel they can are the home jumper Charles Austin, who is in excellent form, Dragutin Topic, Yugoslavia's European champion of 1990, and Steinar Hoen, the Norwegian who took over that title two years ago.

The size of the crowd for what was a relatively workaday session of athletics must have been an awesome thing to behold for many of the athletes.

"I couldn't believe it when I walked out and saw so many people," said Marcia Richardson, who came through the first round of the 100 metres as a fastest qualifier along with team-mates Sandra Douglas and Simmone Jacobs.

Gail Devers, America's defending champion, was the most impressive first- round qualifier in 10.82. Gwen Torrence, Atlanta's very own sprinter, won her heat in 11.11 and reported that the thigh injury which had spoiled her chances of qualifying for the Olympic 200m did not trouble her. "I am in good shape," she said. "This is my third Olympics and it means a lot to me to be here."

Britain's Sean Pickering, whose decision to give up his job to concentrate on shot putting cost him, at his own estimation, $150,000 (pounds 100,000), put a brave face on his elimination in qualifying.

Pickering, son of the late Ron Pickering, the BBC commentator, was events manager of Canon Europe - looking after Formula One. Yesterday he threw 18.29m, finishing 15 places adrift of the top 12 who progressed.

"I don't regret it," Pickering said. "It was worth every penny. I'm a little bit disappointed at the result but for me this odyssey was in two parts - making the Olympics and making the final. At least I achieved one. Now I will have to think about what to do with the rest of my life."

Sally Gunnell's confidence that she is sufficiently recovered from the heel injury she suffered in Lausanne earlier this month will be put to the test today as she steps out for the first round of her defence of the Olympic 400m hurdles title.

Meanwhile Liz McColgan believes she has prepared as well as she possibly could have done for the marathon which starts at 7.05am here tomorrow.

The Scotswoman, who regained momentum in her career by winning this year's London Marathon, came into Atlanta on Wednesday after spending two months at her regular training venue of Gainesville, Florida, where she owns a house.

She has trained regularly at 7am in 75 degrees of heat and 75 per cent humidity. "I'm well used to the conditions," she said.

Olympic reports, pages 25-27

Olympic results, page 27

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