Linford Christie, whose week has been marked by emotional outbursts and a vow not to compete beyond this season, pulled out of a meeting at Nuremberg yesterday and flew back to London upon hearing that his mother had died.
Mabel Christie, who was 65, suffered a stroke four years ago and had been in intensive care in Hammersmith hospital, west London. "She went into hospital a little while ago and she had been responding to treatment," Christie's coach, Ron Roddan, said. "Then this happened."
Only hours after Christie had returned home, his friend and business partner, Colin Jackson, lost over 110 metres hurdles for the first time in 31 races. The world champion admitted afterwards that the news had also affected him.
"I was with Linford in the hotel when he took the call," Jackson said. "It was very sad. When a close friend hears news like that, it's bound to get to you too."
The Welshman finished third behind the Germans, Florian Schwarthoff and Mike Fenner, in 13.43sec. Schwarthoff, the European silver medallist whom Jackson beat in Rome last week, won in 13.19, with Fenner, who leads this year's rankings, recording 13.42.
Britain's Commonwealth 5,000m champion, Rob Denmark, denied a chance to meet the Olympic champion, Dieter Baumann, because of the German's injury, nevertheless made his trip worthwhile with victory in 13.13, the fifth-fastest time in the world this year.
Christie, the 35-year-old world and Olympic 100 metres champion, became involved in a row with reporters and photographers before flying out from Heathrow on Wednesday. Two days earlier, on a late-night television sports programme, he announced tearfully that he could not face defending his Olympic title in 1996 because of media harrassment and problems with Britain's athletics authorities.
Yesterday's news will elicit widespread sympathy for a figure whose erratic reactions and statements in recent days have attracted the kind of media attention that he most resents. From the tenor of some coverage, you might have thought Christie had been accused of throwing races or had launched a kung-fu kick on a spectator.
The worst charge that can be laid against him is of holding the British Athletic Federation to ransom in the ongoing negotiations over how much he should be paid for appearing in this season's major domestic meetings. But, rightly or wrongly, he is convinced that he has a reasonable case and that the Federation is insulting him in offering less than he got last season.
Christie has execrated the media - but then he has done that on a regular basis for years. His only crime this week, it seems, is that he has chosen a retirement date. And been upset.
Results, Sporting Digest, page 27
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