Christie denied farewell victory

ATHLETICS: Olympic champion loses out in photo finish as Edwards and Sanderson reinforce medal hopes
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The Independent Online

Linford Christie, who will defend his Olympic 100 metres title in Atlanta on Friday week, bade farewell to the British public at the Securicor Games here last night without securing the victory he might have expected against a modest 100m field.

For the second time in three days, Christie was beaten by the narrowest of margins as Michael Green of Jamaica breasted the line first in a time of 10.26sec.

Christie, who was credited with the same time, appeared to have recovered after being a metre adrift at the halfway point, but his final lunge proved insufficient, just as it had in the Nice grand prix on Wednesday, when he had to give best to the world champion Donovan Bailey on a photo-finish.

"I am not pleased with the run," he said afterwards. "But I will be okay for Atlanta."

There was a further unexpected turn of events in the 400 metres when Du'Aine Ladejo, one of Britain's three individual choices in Atlanta, walked away from his blocks and out of the race complaining of stomach cramps.

"I haven't been feeling good all day," said Ladejo, who stood up twice from his position in lane eight before strolling back past the bemused glances of his rivals. His mood would not have been improved by hearing his rival Roger Black mistakenly introduced to the crowd as the European champion, a title Ladejo holds.

In the absence of the world champion Michael Johnson, still considering legal action after being denied a run in this race by the organisers, another American stepped in to provide serious opposition for Britain's leading runners, and won.

Darnell Hall, who did not qualify for Atlanta, recorded 44.68sec ahead of Black. But the man who has twice lowered the British record this season looked pleased enough to have won his domestic battle with a time of 44.88sec. Iwan Thomas, the third British individual representative, third in 45.08sec.

Jonathan Edwards, who is looking increasingly like Britain's safest hope for an Olympic gold medal, gave an erratic performance in front of a crowd of about 10,000 eager to applaud every good thing he did. Despite running through several of his attempts, Edwards, who transformed the triple jumping event last year in a season which culminated in a world record and a world title, made no mistake about extending his unbeaten run.

A fourth-round effort of 17.52 metres was enough to extend the sequence that began in June last year. His team-mate in Atlanta, Francis Agyepong maintained his encouraging form by taking second place in 16.77m.

Tessa Sanderson, bound for a sixth Olympics at the age of 40, won the javelin with a throw of 64.06 metres, which gives her a realistic hope of reaching the Olympic final, and an outside chance of winning a medal.

"I hope this sends a shock down my rivals' spines," she said. "I'm back."

It was the furthest she had thrown since she returned to competition earlier this year after a four-year absence. Having made the Olympic qualifying mark she had spent the intervening weeks trying to reach the mid 60's, from which point greater things become possible. The furthest throw in the world this year, by Felicia Tilea, is only 69.26.

That Sanderson, who won the Olympic title in 1984, she can raise her game at such a time is a tribute to the competitive instincts which have served her so well since her first Olympics in 1976.

"It was a brilliant way to say farewell," she said. She estimates that a throw of 64 or 65 metres will be enough to secure a medal, and that 66 would be enough for gold.

Asked what she thought she would realistically be able to throw in Atlanta, she replied: "My coach says 70, but I think something around 67 is possible. When I get out there, all I will be thinking about is winning."

Steve Backley, in only his second javelin competition since returning from an Achilles tendon operation, raised his season's best to 85.58metres to confirm that he is getting his preparations right for the Games.

Allen Johnson, America's world 110m hurdles champion, gave notice of his gold medal ambition by running well clear of a field that included Britain's world silver medallist Tony Jarrett to win in 13.20sec.

Vebjorn Rodal of Norway also confirmed his position as an Olympic favourite, in this instance the 800 metres, with victory in a time of 1min 43.25sec.

With Wilson Kipketer, the Kenyan who now lives in Denmark, ineligible for the Games because of passport difficulties, Rodal, who is second to him in the world rankings, is left with a marvellous opportunity. "It's bad for the Olympics, but not for me," Rodal said of his rival's enforced absence.

The women's 5,000 metres, which was to have been a world record attempt by Ireland's world champion Sonia O'Sullivan, failed in that billing, but it turned into an absorbing race as the leggy Irish runner was trailed over the final four laps by Britain's Paula Radcliffe, Sally Barsosio of Kenya and Ireland's former European cross country champion, Catherina McKiernan.

At the bell, O'Sullivan, who had appeared to flag in mid-race, took up the running and only Radcliffe, with her nodding-dog style of running giving the clue to the amount of effort she was putting in, responded.

Radcliffe never quite lost touch with O'Sullivan, but she was unable to challenge her seriously either and the Irish runner won in 14min 48.36sec. Radcliffe was second in 14.51,71.

Results, Sporting Digest, page 27