Frankie pulls a fast one

Norman Fox assesses the mood of friendly rivals who are foes on the track

Some may find it surprising that Olympic rivals train together. But the case of Linford Christie and Frankie Fredericks borders on the bizarre. Christie, the Olympic 100 metres champion, shares confidences with Fredericks and even encourages him. This bond between two of the world's great sprinters, runs against all the modern trends towards aggressive rivalries that have led to fights among runners.

Even here at the British training camp Christie and the 27-year-old Namibian, Fredericks, have been making their last-minute preparations for the Games in each other's company. Fredericks has not quite made up his mind whether to run the 100m as well as the 200m but in one or other, or both, he will probably face Christie, the man who confides in him more than anyone apart from Christie's coach, Ron Roddan.

"Face" is not a literal interpretation of what most sprinters do in major competitions these days. Eye contact is the very thing they avoid as they line up for a final. Indeed, Christie is notorious for his glazed concentration and use of every known psychological ploy to put off his opponents. And even in the comparatively relaxed atmosphere of hotel foyers, top sprinters have been known to come to blows.

Fredericks knows all about Christie's technique. He says that the "old man" is past his best but there is a look in Fredericks' eye that speaks of a suspicion that his 36-year-old friend could have just one more blessed performance before retiring to the life of a Saturday afternoon part-timer with Thames Valley Harriers.

Christie likes Fredericks because he is a private person who has got to the top of his athletics profession without ever being asked much about himself or revealing anything about anyone else - least of all Christie himself. When cornered, he says that their reason for training together is that "he teaches you what hard work is all about".

They spent time together last winter training in Australia. Fredericks said: "I got a lot of confidence from working with him. I felt stronger and quicker." His form this season is such that even Michael Johnson may have to improve his own world 200m record set in the American Olympic trials to keep him subdued.

Last month Fredericks beat Johnson over 200m in Oslo after he had earlier reduced his 100m personal best to 9.86 seconds. Interestingly, he had also been the last man to beat Johnson two years and 21 races before. Fredericks still denies he got a "flyer". He said: "I got my best ever start. It was fair. I knew it was going to be my race. Now I believe I can do it again against anyone in the world." His confidence in 1996 has been higher than ever before, partly as a result of an indoor season that saw him virtually invincible.

He has always been more technically proficient than Christie over 200m and has offered him good advice in an attempt to reduce the big man's problem of balance on the bend. Balance is natural to Fredericks who was a good enough footballer to win an international cap for Namibia before he was sent by his mining company employers to study here in the States. He was the first non-American to win the inter-collegiate 100m and 200m and went on to take Olympic silver medals over both distances in Barcelona.

His ability to avoid personal publicity has always made him difficult to assess but he said: "Ever since I got involved in athletics, I wanted to do something for my country - not so much for me. What I win is also helping my family at home." He had a tough upbringing in South Africa but remembers fondly that his own first track successes happened to coincide with the year of Namibia's independence in 1990. He is recognised in his own country as the first world-class sportsman it has produced, although without his time spent in the States and later under the influence of Christie, he acknowledges that he could never have reached such status.

The reason he is not going to decide whether to start in Friday's 100m heats is that "running in two events at the Olympics is very hard because you don't get any slow races". He also knows that the 200m is for him a safer distance - less likely to cause injury. To run the 100m first is obviously a risk but having suddenly logged two of the fastest three 100m of all time, the temptation is enormous. On this occasion, Christie would be glad not to have his company.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Life and Style
tech
Sport
Andros Townsend is challenged by Vladimir Volkov
football
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SEN 1:1 Teacher

£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a qualified teache...

SEN Teachers and Support Staff

£50 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you an SEN Teacher or L...

English and Media Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: English & Media Teacher - ...

Y1 Teacher

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Y1 Teacher required for a So...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week