Athletics: Christie plots twin-track strategy for Lewis-Francis

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The Independent Online

Lewis-Francis, who held off the world champion Maurice Greene on the anchor leg as the Great Britain 4x100m team edged out the Americans at the Athens Games, is set to contest the longer distance in order to improve his chances over his 100m speciality.

The 22-year-old has been listening to Christie while training in Wales with the former double world junior champion Christian Malcolm who is in the 1992 Olympic champion's stable of athletes.

Lewis-Francis said: "Linford Christie said, to be good at the 100m then you have to be doing the 200m and if you look at most of the top guys around the world, they tend to double up at major championships."

The Americans have the likes of Greene, who won the sprint double at the last World Championships, and Justin Gatlin, who added the 200m bronze to his gold in the 100m in Athens.

Domestically, the event boasts some strength in depth in former Olympic silver medallist Darren Campbell, European Under-23 champion Chris Lambert and Olympic relay team-mate Marlon Devonish.

Lewis-Francis will also be taking on training partner Malcolm, who produced the top British display in the general gloom when he ran 20.15sec in Florence at the recent European Cup.

The Birchfield Harrier insists the shorter sprint will be his immediate focus at next week's Norwich Union World Championships and Commonwealth trials and the AAA Championships in Manchester. He said: "I will run the three rounds of the 100m at the world trials and see how I go. It's 50-50 at the moment but I am seriously considering running the 200m."

Lewis-Francis has rarely competed over the longer distance but he successfully doubled up on his last outing at the North Down Games in Northern Ireland last Friday, setting a personal best of 20.78sec.

His time was all the more impressive considering the cold, windy conditions which were in marked contrast to his previous best of 20.94sec set in Florida in April 2002.

Although this year will represent an opportunity to test the water in the 200m, Lewis-Francis intends to double up in future major championships.

"I ran a great 200m in Ireland recently and that banished a lot of my demons," he said. "I don't know why I was so scared of it."

Next week's event at the Manchester Regional Arena is a chance for Lewis-Francis to qualify for his third World Championships in Helsinki in August.