Commonwealth Games / Athletics: Fredericks ends the mystery: Three world champions bring the stamp of quality to the track. Duncan Mackay reports from Victoria

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The Independent Online
WHILE Linford Christie and Colin Jackson received heroes' welcomes here on Saturday when they arrived for the Commonwealth Games, Frankie Fredericks slipped into town almost unnoticed to end a week-long game of 'Will he, won't he?'

Even Namibian team officials were surprised when the world 200 metres champion showed up from the United States, where he is taking a degree in computer studies.

Fredericks did not understand the fuss. 'I always intended to come along, they knew that,' he said, genuinely puzzled by all the interest surrounding his absence. 'That's why I stayed in America. So I can train.'

His arrival, together with Christie and Jackson, was another feather in the cap for organisers fighting off criticism about the lack of quality on the track after the decision by Kenya's six world and Olympic champions and Merlene Ottey, of Jamaica, to miss the event to chase the dollars on the European Grand Prix circuit.

The former German colony of Namibia, granted independence from South Africa three years ago, is making its debut in the Commonwealth Games. Fredericks is their only realistic medal hope when the athletics start today.

'The 100 metres is going to be a tough race and that's what motivates me more and more,' said Fredericks, whose personal best is 9.95sec. 'I'm not going to give Linford anything - he's going to have to take it. But I'm not here to be be concerned about Linford. My goal is not to be second, but first.' But it is over the longer sprint where Fredericks' real ambitions lie. He is hoping that England's John Regis will recover from the Achilles injury which kept him out of the European Championships. In Stuttgart last year, Fredericks passed Regis in the last 30 metres to claim the world title. The two are ranked first and third in the world this year with times of 19.87sec for Regis and 19.97 for Fredericks.

The Commonwealth Games probably mean more to the people on the streets of Windhoek than they do to Fredericks. 'Living under apartheid, when Namibia was part of South Africa, I never even thought about the Games,' he admitted. 'I never dreamed about them as a kid, so they weren't a big goal when I became an athlete. But it's important for me to represent my country.'

Christie's and Jackson's arrivals were covered on live television. Christie is being sold as the 'marquee athlete' of these games, and the 100m as this year's equivalent of the famous 'miracle mile' between Roger Bannister and John Landy, which ensured the 1954 Games across the water in Vancouver passed into athletics legend.

Christie, however, has refused an England management plea to run in the 200m and he will not take part in the 4x100m relay, preferring to return to Europe.

The only gold medal to be decided on this first day on the track will be in the hammer. Sean Carlin, of Australia, the defending champion, has a four metre break on his nearest rival this year.