Christie still coy on sprinters' Olympics

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The Independent Online
Linford Christie said yesterday that this year's Atlanta Olympics would be a "sprinters' Games" but still kept his rivals guessing on whether he would defend his 100 metres title.

Christie told a news conference in Nuremburg that Atlanta's heat and humidity would provide perfect conditions for sprinters, and added that he was even fitter than last year, despite his 36 years.

Although his clothing and shoe sponsors Puma, who organised the conference, released a statement implying that Christie would be running at the Games, Christie refused to commit himself.

"If I'm there, you will see me. If not, you won't," he said. "For people like me, the heat and humidity are great. It's going to be a sprinters' Games. I'm a lot stronger now. As time goes on I get better."

The German company organised the event to publicise what it called its World Team - leading athletes who are competing in Atlanta and are under contract to wear the company's kit.

"In Atlanta, 10,768 athletes will compete," the statement said. "Four of them have special ambitions." It went on to mention Christie, along with his friend Colin Jackson, who is seeking the high hurdles title, Merlene Ottey, the Jamaican sprinter, and Heike Drechsler, the German long jumper.

Puma will require a high profile from Christie in return for the generous contract he has with them, and are clearly expecting him to be in Atlanta. But Christie's agent, Sue Barrett, maintains that he has genuinely not made up his mind yet.

He has said repeatedly that 1996 will be his last season and he is running just for fun. But despite having his indoor season cut short by a groin injury he has prepared hard.

Looking powerful and fit after training in Australia and Florida, he opened his outdoor season with a 100m victory in 10.20sec, despite cold and wet conditions at a small meeting in the German town of Arnsberg on Sunday.

The mark compared favourably with the hand-timed 10.3 he clocked at the start of 1992 season, when he went on to win the Olympic title in Barcelona, and the 10.26 in his first race in 1993, the season he won the world title in Stuttgart.

While Christie deliberates, others are preparing to take full advantage of the sprinters' Games. On Sunday, his training partner Frankie Fredericks won the 100m in Osaka in 10.09. And in California, Brian Lewis of the United States recorded 10.03, the fifth-fastest time in the world this year.

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