Christie opens in determined mood

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The Independent Online
Linford Christie did not appear to be the fastest 100 metres runner in the world here yesterday - that distinction fell to his training partner Frankie Fredericks - but he did look the most determined. He will not give up his title today without a fearsome struggle.

While Fredericks looked awesomely at ease in qualifying for the semi- final in a time of 9.93sec - slowing down 20 metres from the line - Christie displayed the tranced concen- tration that has marked his greatest performances over the years to win his heat in 10.03 - his fastest this year.

That may have been a response to earlier jibes by the official Young Pretender, 22-year-old Ato Boldon - if not, it certainly served as one.

Boldon, who underlined his own extremely strong chance of a medal by winning his heat in 9.95, also slowing over the final stages, had maintained earlier in the day that Christie would not break 10 seconds at these Olympics.

That looks a whole lot more unlikely than his second assertion, which was that Leroy Burrell's world record of 9.85 would go on this super-hard, super-fast Mondo track.

Bearing in mind the obvious shape of Fredericks - "I was running within myself, and I haven't seen anything to frighten me yet" - Boldon and Christie, that looks a certainty. At this rate, the final will be heaving with talent as never before.

Mike Marsh, the Olympic 200m champion, won his heat impressively in 10.04, while the US champion Dennis Mitchell, now with a silver ring in his right eyebrow, gave his usual bombastic display after winning his heat in 10.09. A crowd approaching the capacity of 82,000 appeared to appreciate it.

Jonathan Edwards, who qualified at last year's world championships with his first attempt before going on to take the title, was not able to reproduce that performance here as several of his rivals made the qualifying mark of 17 metres at their first attempt, including the US pair of Kenny Harrison (17.58) and Mike Conley (17.20). Edwards fell tantalisingly short of the mark with his opening two efforts. The first was 16.93; the second 16.96.

He returned to the bench each time with an impassive expression. Although his efforts had placed him fairly solidly in sixth place, with 12 to go through to today's final, it was hardly the opening flourish which he and the rest of the world had been expecting. Edwards, however, was able to pass on his third and final attempt knowing that he had done enough and deciding, wisely, to save his strength in conditions approaching 75 per cent humidity. He did not seem unduly concerned, remaining in the preparation area and sharing a joke with several of his fellow jumpers.

Diane Modahl, whose participation in these Games was something of a triumph given the fact that she only won her long struggle to have her doping ban overturned back in May, saw triumph turn to something approaching disaster as she dropped out of her opening 800m heat with 50 metres to go suffering from a hamstring injury which had been troubling her all week.

Modahl had led gamely from the line to the final back straight, but by the time she stepped on to the infield in distress, four of the other field had swept by her. "It was very frustrating," Modahl said. "But I shall keep going for the world championships next year."

Kelly Holmes, whose participation at the Games had been in doubt until this week because of an injury to her shin, moved safely onwards. She tracked Patricia Djate, the Frenchwoman whom she had beaten to bronze in last year's world championships, and came past her on the outside in the final straight, recording 1min 58.80sec, the fastest time of the day, despite slowing before the line.

It was a gutsy display from the Army sergeant, who has been told to expect pain throughout the rounds as she searches for medals in the 800 and, if she can keep going, the 1500.

"My leg was sore but I didn't feel it during the race," Holmes said. "I hadn't run in 10 days which made me very nervous about competing. But I'm confident I can run well enough to make the final."

Tessa Sanderson's attempt to reach the Olympic javelin final at the age of 40 - and 20 years after her first appearance in the Games at Montreal - ended in failure.

Sanderson, who appeared to have moved to another level of competitiveness when she threw 64.06m at Crystal Palace on 12 July, was unable to reach the automatic qualifying distance of 62.50. Her best of 58.86 left her seventh in the first qualifying group and facing a nervous wait to see if it would be sufficient - which it ultimately was not.

"I wasn't releasing the javelin fast enough," she said. "I'm very disheartened, but it is my own fault. I've been to six Olympics, and I couldn't really ask for more - apart from a medal. This is absolutely the end. The curtain is coming down."

Roger Black won his opening 400m heat with ease in 45.29. He was joined in today's second round by team-mates Du'Aine Ladejo who was third in 46.27, and Iwan Thomas (45.22). Michael Johnson, seeking the first half of a 400/200m double, joined them with a time of 45.80, slowing virtually to a walk to allow Sugath Thilakaratne of Sri Lanka a victory to tell his grandchildren about.

Olympic reports, pages 25-27

Olympic results, page 27

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