Christie takes control

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The Independent Online
LINFORD CHRISTIE'S brave decision to run in the Europa Cup here the day after his mother's funeral brought him a badly needed 100 metres victory, but he immediately confirmed that he had no intention of reconsidering his decision to retire at the end of this season.

After an impressive victory in 10.05sec in unfriendly conditions, and anchoring the 4x100m relay team to victory, Christie said: "When your mum passes on, you realise nothing else matters. Nothing will faze me again." It was a clear reference to his recent arguments with the media, which, it seems, he wants to put behind him. He said: "It's been great for me to come here. It was my sixth European win and I feel I've inspired some of the younger ones. This week I've had family and friends to pull me through. I've never felt fitter and I've never had better times this early in the season. I don't think I will have to run that fast to win in the World Championships. But I don't even think about reconsidering retiring."

His inspiration was certainly valued by the 400m runner Mark Richardson, who, after two years out with injuries, won his first major title. Afterwards, he said: "I was warming up and I looked at Linford and he looked so professional. I really want to emulate him."

Christie's arrival here by train through the Channel Tunnel, which he said he would never travel, was not as unexpected as some may have thought. He had attended the funeral and would have had the best of reasons at least to leave his first race in these championships until today's 200m. But whatever criticism there has been of his recent outbursts against the British Athletic Federation and the media, it would be churlish to doubt his sense of responsibility to the British cause in an event like this.

He might also have pulled out with a sick note, since in the week he had developed a cold and a sore throat but, in view of the fact that the field for yesterday's 100m was less than intimidating, it seemed that having turned up, all he had to do was cruise with the stiff breeze at his back to win, which he did.

Christie, calm and with his usual fixed stare at the finish-line, had to endure two false starts. At the third attempt Christie raised an arm and back they went for another try. At the fourth, Christie took off impeccably, but after 10 metres the Russian Andrey Grigoryev was slightly closing the gap. Christie reacted quickly and restored his advantage to register a championship record and second fastest time in the world this year.

Britain's strength at 400m is now formidable. Richardson stormed ahead of the field early in his race and was never in danger of losing his hold. That was only to be expected in view of the lack of top-class opposition; nevertheless it means that this season should bring several outstanding one-lap races between the Britons. Richardson's time of 45.43sec may not have been a personal best, but was not bad for someone out for so long and yesterday buffeted by the wind.

For all of Britain's disappointing withdrawals, they still began yesterday with a remote hope of winning the men's match, which meant making sure that if individual victories were not to be thick on the ground, regular placements deeper in the field could be fruitful. Gary Jennings showed exactly the right spirit in fighting through to a fourth place in the 400m hurdles, in which he could easily have given up when coming off the last bend sixth.

In similar spirit, Stephanie Douglas took on a powerful 100m field and held on well to secure a fourth place behind the German champion Melanie Paschke, and Sonya Bowyer had to run a personal best of 2min 1.67sec to snatch fourth place in the 800m. Every little counted, and when Melanie Neef really exerted herself in the 400m, Britain's initial feeling of depression was pleasantly lifted.

Neef began and ended her race with equal conviction to overcome a final 100m full of pressure from the Russian Yulia Sotnikova. She saw the danger early and was able to increase the pace by a fraction to win in a personal best time of 51.35sec. Ashia Hansen set a British record of 14.37m to win the triple jump, leaving Britain in second place overall. A high jump win by Steve Smith greatly helped the men's team, who also ended the day in second place.

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