Christie left on sidelines by relay bungle

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The Independent Online
Britain's tale of woe on the track continued yesterday when Linford Christie's Olympics ended as they had begun - in disarray.

Christie, defending his title but disqualified from the 100 metres final through two false starts, and knocked out in the second round of the 200m, saw his championship career ended by default as his colleagues dropped the baton in the opening round of the sprint relay heats.

With the men's captain saving himself for later, Darren Braithwaite and Darren Campbell dropped the baton going into the third leg.

The foul-up revived memories of the European Championships in Helsinki two years ago when Braithwaite let the baton slip on the same change, with Christie a forlorn figure waiting to run the anchor leg in search of the gold medal.

Braithwaite complained later that he felt awkward going out for a while afterwards, as people kept coming up to him to ask if he was the runner who had dropped the baton. It looks like he is in for another trying period.

Christie, 36, is adamant that this season will be his last in top-level competition. After the debacle, his colleagues were steeling themselves to apologise.

"Linford was without a medal here and we were really going out there to do our best for him," said Campbell, who has trained regularly with the British captain during the winter. "Now I have to go and face him."

The lead-off man, Tony Jarrett, said: "We practised plenty of times. But these sort of accidents happen in the relay. It would have been nice to get something for Linford."

Braithwaite, part of the squad that won a World Championship bronze in Tokyo in 1991 and the World Indoor silver medallist over 60m last year, admitted: "It sums up the whole Olympics for us."

Like Christie, Britain's 400m silver medallist Roger Black took a break from the first round of the 4x400m relay, but his team-mates reached the semi-finals safely.

In the javelin qualifying, European champion Steve Backley, who was on crutches in June after an Achilles tendon operation, needed only one throw of 84.14m to reach today's final.

But he warned: "It will be an awesome competition - no place for faint hearts or weak bodies. It will take 88 metres to get among the medals, but I don't normally leave major championships without a medal and I don't expect to do so here." His training partner, Mick Hill squeezed through with 80.48, but Nick Nieland went out on 75.74.

Dennis Mitchell said he would be prepared to relinquish the anchor leg in the United States' 4x100m relay team if Carl Lewis was selected to run.

Lewis, who won his ninth Olympic gold medal in the long jump on Monday, has hinted heavily that he would like the opportunity to go for a record 10th, but he did not make the US squad at the Olympic trials.

He may have moved one place nearer his goal yesterday with the news that Leroy Burrell, his friend and training partner, had withdrawn from the relay squad with injury.

Burrell denied that he had acted to give Lewis an opportunity. "Would you give up a Pulitzer Prize?" he snapped. "No. That's ridiculous."

Mitchell said: "If Carl is selected to run there is only one place we would be comfortable with him running and that's anchor. I have known and worked with Carl long enough to know if he ran anchor and I ran third, his hand would be there when I came round that bend. We wouldn't have to practise."

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