European Athletics Championships: Quiet satisfaction as Christie eyes Americans: Mike Rowbottom hears Britain's captain play down the hype as Zurich draws near

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The Independent Online
LINFORD CHRISTIE'S performance in equalling Valery Borzov's record of three European 100 metres titles gave him cause for satisfaction. But not celebration.

Next Wednesday in Zurich, a newly laid track - supposedly even faster than the previous one - and a posse of the best American sprinters await him. He is all too aware that the challenge will require far more from him than he produced on Monday night.

'When you race against the Americans, your heart goes that much more,' said Christie, whose planned meeting with the Americans in last month's Goodwill Games was postponed because of his hamstring injury.

He refused yesterday to be drawn into another slanging match with his transatlantic rivals. 'Linford who?', Carl Lewis and Leroy Burrell had chorused in unison at a pre- race press conference in St Petersburg. Christie hopes to remind them on Wednesday.

'I have more chance of beating the Americans in championships rather than one-off races,' he said. But, someone asked, weren't there two rounds scheduled in Zurich? 'That's right,' he said. 'That's why I'm smiling.'

He was not smiling after crossing the line on Monday in 10.14sec. 'After running 10.08 in the second round I wanted to run even faster but I was trying too hard. If I had smiled afterwards it would have shown that I thought I ran a good race.'

He brightened up for yesterday's medal ceremony, where the presentation was made by Borzov, head of the Ukrainian delegation here.

At 34, Christie is still not inclined to be specific about when his career will end. 'It just keeps on going round and round,' he said. 'I just don't know when it will be time to get off. I don't know that I won't be running in 1998.'

Steve Backley's surmise that the 42,000 who turned up at the stadium the previous night had not made the effort for the 100m was supported by the attention the javelin event received in the local papers. The main picture on the front page of Iltalehti, a colour tabloid, featured Backley's girlfriend, Tuula Kangas, smiling down from her seat in the stadium. Four pages were devoted to the competition. The report of Christie's victory was tucked away in a corner.

Before coming here, Backley said he was hoping to consolidate after two years of striving too hard to recover from injuries. 'If I get a European medal and win the Commonwealth Games title, I will be happy,' he said. His victory over the best throwers in the world puts him in an ideal position later this month to retain the second title he won four years ago.