Christie waxes poetic in bid to inspire Britain's medal hopefuls

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The Independent Online

It remains to be seen how many of Britain's runners, jumpers and throwers will manage to be poetry in motion at the European Championships in Barcelona next week.

They have been sent on their way to the Catalan capital though, with poetic words from Linford Christie, who struck Olympic 100m gold back in 1992 on the Montjuic Stadium track where the British class of 2010 will be chasing medals between Tuesday and Sunday. Some of the words were borrowed – "Desiderata" by Max Ehrmann – but some were from Christie's own hand.

The retired sprinter was invited to address the squad at a team meeting called by head coach Charles van Commenee at their camp at Monte Gordo in Portugal. "Charles touched on the Olympics in Barcelona and showed a video clip of Linford winning there," Jessica Ennis, the world heptathlon champion and British team captain, said yesterday. "Linford said a few words and read two poems. One of them he'd written himself.

"It was about his experiences in Barcelona, about going out there, and how he performed. It wasn't long. It was quite short. I can't remember word for word but it was really funny."

UK Athletics pointed out that Christie had been at the Aviva-funded camp not as a member of the British coaching staff but as a personal coach to several athletes on the team, among them Laura Turner, who stands second in the European rankings in the 100m this summer, and Mark Lewis-Francis, the 2004 Olympic 4x100m relay gold medallist. Christie, who turned 50 in April, was banned from competition by the International Association of Athletics Federations in 1999 after excessive levels of nandrolone were detected in a drugs test.

Ennis, Britain's strongest hope for gold in Barcelona, was only six when Christie and 400m hurdler Sally Gunnell achieved Olympic triumphs in the Catalan capital. "I can't really remember those Games," Ennis confessed. "When Charles put a clip up, it looked amazing – it sent a tingle up your spine."

Happily, Ennis has made a full recovery from the virus that forced her to miss the UK Championships and two weeks of training last month. "I'm back into full training," she added. "I'm feeling back to where I was, if not better."

It is a fair bet that there was an extra spring – if not two – in the step of Britain's other reigning world champion yesterday: Phillips Idowu. With world indoor record holder Teddy Tamgho already a major doubt for the triple jump in Barcelona, reigning champion Christian Olsson has withdrawn from the Swedish team because of injury.