Christie puts rivals to flight

Athletics

Athletics

MIKE ROWBOTTOM

reports from Zurich

It was as if the trauma of the World Championships had never happened to Linford Christie here last night. Eleven days after finishing prostrate and beaten in the 100 metres final at Gothenburg, the 35-year-old Briton restored his position as the world's most formidable sprinter by defeating the man who had succeeded him as world champion, Donovan Bailey. Respect restored.

Christie, incredibly, was back - recovered from the hamstring and knee injuries that he and many others had forecast would keep him out of the running for several weeks. Back, too, for longer than anticipated.

Influenced, perhaps, by the heady excitement which his performance had generated within this small, packed Letzigrund Stadium, he announced that he will continue to run at the top level next season, although he would stick to his intention not to defend his Olympic title. Time will tell whether he can resist that temptation - but it is bound up for him with the media pressure which caused him such disquiet during the World Championships build-up.

His next appearance, he confirmed, would be at the GB v US international in Gateshead on Monday. "I am so happy," he said. "I am trying to keep calm at the moment, but I feel like I just won the World Championships. I am as sore as hell - I am on painkillers - but I couldn't go out on the note I did at Gothenburg."

Although he made an emotional announcement on 13 June that this season was to be his last, he denied last night that he had changed his mind in saying he would do selected races next season. "I only said I wouldn't do the Olympics, and I am sticking to that. For me, the big race is the Olympic Games. I don't know exactly what meets I will do next year, but it will not be only club races. If I stop completely, I think my body will crumble."

Christie came smoothly through a qualifying heat which he won in 10.09sec, and in the final he seemed to put his race together in the way he had not been able to in Gothenburg, recording 10.03sec to Bailey's 10.09, prompting the cognoscenti on the terraces to chant his name like a football crowd.

In the circumstances, there was a sense of foreboding about his first race since Gothenburg, but the worry appeared entirely misplaced as he won his semi-final with practised ease - starting well, maintaining momentum over the final 30m and, after crossing the line, wheeling away with his "let's get on with it" look. Even his step appeared to have recovered its jaunty quality.

After crossing the line in the final, Christie ran straight into the arms of his friend Colin Jackson, who had also returned to action after seeing his world title lost, even though he had not managed a victory on the night.

Jackson, who saw Allen Johnson divest him of the world 110m hurdles title in his absence last Saturday, proved a point by beating the American last night, finishing 0.01sec faster in 13.21sec. But the Welshman - who recorded 13.16sec in winning a low-key comeback race at Baden on Saturday - finished second to another man with a point to prove. Mark Crear, who failed to make the US team for the World Championships after being knocked out in the semi-finals of the US trials, won in 13.18.

Tony Jarrett, whom Johnson had said before the race that he feared more than Jackson, could only finish fifth in 13.58.

Wilson Kipketer's attempt to break Seb Coe's 14-year-old 800m world record ended in respectable failure as he equalled his season's best of 1min 42.87sec, which only four men have bettered. And Noureddine Morceli, attempting to lower his mile record of 3min 44.39sec, managed 3:45.19sec.

Ashia Hansen improved her British triple jump record to 14.38m. Sonia O'Sullivan, the newly-installed world 5,000m champion, won the 3,000m as she pleased in a time of 8min 27.57sec, the fastest in the world this year. Behind her, Paula Radcliffe finished fourth in a personal best of 8min 40.82sec.

Steve Backley finished third in the javelin with 85.90m, as Raymond Hecht of Germany won with 87.30.

In the women's 400m hurdles, Tonja Buford, the world silver medallist, outkicked Marie-Jose Perec of France, who chose last week not to double up with the 400m in Gothenburg. The new world record holder, Kim Batten, faded badly at the last hurdle. But if and when Sally Gunnell returns from her Achilles tendon injury, she will, like Jackson, face opposition in more than one quarter.

Leading article, page 16

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