In what was possibly, even probably, his last appearance on this fabled track, Linford Christie encountered neither triumph nor disaster last night - but something in between.
The man whose defence of the Olympic title ended with two false starts two weeks ago did not handicap himself in similar fashion. However, a third consecutive win at the Zurich Grand Prix proved beyond him. This was the 36-year-old's biggest opportunity to set the record straight against the men who had claimed the Atlanta booty. Against a field that included the gold and bronze medallists, Christie was third behind the winner, Dennis Mitchell of the United States. He recorded the same time - 10.06sec - as the second-placed runner, the world and Olympic champion Donovan Bailey.
Zurich has been Christie's special hunting ground in recent times. Two years ago, in torrential rain, he beat the best Americans. Last season he proved a point again by beating Bailey after the Canadian had taken over his world title. On both occasions Christie was jubilant, firing imaginary pistols into a crowd which chanted his name, football-style. Last night the guns were silent.
Christie, who was not sure of where he had placed until he consulted the TV monitor beyond the finish line, was a sombre figure afterwards. Would victory here have done something to efface the memory of Atlanta? He wrinkled up his face and shook his head. "Not really. Even if I had won, the Olympics are the Olympics. And they have gone."
Zurich experienced the 20th world record in its history after another astonishing performance by the woman who can now claim to be the world's leading middle-distance runner. Svetlana Masterkova, Russia's double Olympic champion, reduced Paula Ivan's seven-year-old mark for the mile of 4min 15.61sec, finishing 25m clear of the pack in 4:12.57.
Remarkably, the 28-year-old Russian had never run a mile race before last night. It was a fine season's finale for Masterkova, who was the surprise winner of the Olympic 800 and 1500m. Masterkova, who speaks fluent Spanish and has a home near Alicante, only returned to the international circuit this season after giving birth to a daughter, Anastasia, last year.
Jonathan Edwards was still unable to recapture the form which brought him the world triple jump title and world record last season. But a final- round jump of 17.79m assured him of victory over the man who took gold to his silver in Atlanta last month, Kenny Harrison. The American managed only two counting jumps, the best of them 17.23m.
The women's 100m produced a moment of ironic confusion. In the aftermath of a close finish involving Merlene Ottey, Gwen Torrence and Gail Devers, the winner's bouquet was handed to Devers. The decision was hardly surprising, given Devers's history of winning close calls between herself and Ottey: the 36-year-old Jamaican had lost out to Devers over 100m on two crucial occasions - the 1993 World Championships, where the American was adjudged winner by 0.001sec, and last month's Olympic final, where Devers won by the twist of a shoulder despite a protest from the Jamaicans. When the announcement went up that Ottey had got the verdict - 10.95sec to Torrence's 10.96 and Devers's 11.00 - the American was briefly bemused before delivering the flowers to their rightful destination.
Samuel Komen, the 20-year-old Kenyan who missed the world 3,000m record by 0.05sec in Monaco on Saturday, came close to another last night. Komen, who did not qualify for the Olympics, won the 5,000m in 12min 45.10sec, 0.71sec outside the world record held by Haile Gebrselassie, set on the same track last year. The Ethiopian was left 25m adrift.
Any hopes that Roger Black might have had of improving his British 400m record of 44.37sec disappeared in the wake of Anthuan Maybank, the American who had headed him home in the Olympic relay final. Maybank won last night in 44.18. Black finished fourth in 44.83.
Colin Jackson's melancholy season shows no sign of improving. Britain's 110m hurdles world record holder, diminished by tendinitis in his knee, was just a blur among the also-rans last night. But there was something of a turn-up as the Olympic champion, Allen Johnson, behind whom Jackson finished fourth in Atlanta, was beaten by his fellow American Jack Pierce in 13.22sec.