Cold comfort for Christie

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The Independent Online
ON AN afternoon that compared in damp dreariness to the evening of last Thursday, when he opened his season with an unimpressive fifth place in a 200 metres at St Denis in France, Linford Christie risked another 200 metres, as well as a 100 metres, at Crystal Palace here yesterday and suffered his second defeat in three days.

Running for his club, Thames Valley Harriers, in a low-key British League match, Christie won the 100m smoothly enough but later virtually repeated his 200m performance in France and lost to Solomon Wariso on the line.

As in France, he led both going into the bend and splashing his way around it, but coming into the home straight he lost rhythm and momentum, and even though after Wariso passed him he came back a little, he could not raise his pace sufficiently to recover.

Afterwards he hobbled away smiling, but clearly suffering from a recurring foot injury. Wariso's time of 20.77sec was excellent under the conditions and Christie was only a 10th of a second behind him.

Unpredictable as ever, Christie had quickly overturned the plans he was at pains to emphasise after his disappointing run in France. There, he had said that he was not running any 100 metre races until later in the season, but yesterday he had a sudden change of mind which meant risking injury on a miserably damp afternoon in front of a handful of spectators.

He has no love for Crystal Palace ("It's always cold") and yesterday's conditions were more of the same. The rain had eased slightly for the 100m but it was still a day for several layers. Christie was slow to remove the first, and probably doubted whether he was doing the right thing to appear at all.

In the event, he put minimum effort into his sprint and after an efficient start moved away comfortably to hold off Wariso, who had spent the winter steadily rebuilding his confidence after the shock of a drugs suspension. A time of 10.45sec was as much as anyone could expect.

Christie still says he plans a number of 200m races before concentrating on the 100m, but he may well change his mind, since the 200 is likely to bring him less success and more pain than the event for which he is world and Olympic champion. But what the British Athletics Federation needs to know soon is whether he will run in the Europa Cup later this month. Yesterday he gave a vague indication that he would go from the meeting in Oslo direct to Lille.

Although he lost a fortnight's training because of a toe injury, he says that has nothing to do with the fact that he appeared to lose interest in the race in France after realising that his quick start was not going to give him any advantage over the world champion, Frankie Fredericks of Namibia. Clearly he is looking for some variety, but may be advised to concentrate on what he does best.

Christie said: "I'm not really injured. The club asked me to run the 100m and I was quite happy to do so. But I'm still running badly. I'm not firing yet. I've had the injury, but by August I'll be all right."

Should Christie decide against competing in Lille, the British team could well find itself without both the men and the women's captains. Sally Gunnell has decided not to start her season until 15 June in Nuremburg. She needs more time to recover from an Achilles tendon injury and elected not to run in Turin on Friday night. She has also pulled out of next Thursday's Grand Prix meeting in Rome.

Among those who will definitely not be available for the Europa Cup is Wariso, who has already decided that he is going to his nephew's christening.