Johnson's hurdle

Norman Fox encounters an athlete keen to find respect at Crystal Palace today
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The Independent Online
LINFORD CHRISTIE'S half promise to run in today's McDonald's Games at Crystal Palace has left the British Athletic Federation ending the season as it began, in uneasy negotiations with the Olympic champion's company Nuff Respect. The latest dispute is as much over another of Nuff Respect's runners, John Regis, as it is over Christie.

Regis's unsuccessful season has greatly reduced his capacity to attract high appearance money, and in any case there is no 200 metres event today. Christie maintains that in spite of his injuries, he would have run both the 100m and 200m. More to the point, though, the home crowd merely want him to compete and so refute the suggestion after his non-appearance at Gateshead that, for the sake of a few pounds, he is treating them with contempt.

As with Christie, Colin Jackson is going to need surgery at the end of the season. The 110m hurdles world record holder, who needs a cartilage operation and a tonsillectomy, today faces the possibility of defeat on home ground to the unassuming American world outdoor and indoor champion, Allen Johnson.

Johnson took away his 45-race unbeaten run in Madrid last February. However, Jackson beat him in Zurich a week ago and Johnson says the British athlete is "the greatest of all time" in an event that in the past was dominated by Americans.

The sad lack of recognition for such exceptional American present-day athletes as Allen and Michael Johnson in their own country is something they hope to see change next year with the Olympic Games in Atlanta. But Allen Johnson said: "Track and field needs more marketing in the States. I've not had a single call from a potential sponsor since I became world champion. Outside Carl Lewis, Americans don't know anyone else."

Johnson admits that since Gothenburg he has been relaxing and concentrating only on practice, which means trying to overcome his habit of clouting too many hurdles. He thinks Tony Jarrett, the world championship silver medal winner who has twice beaten him at Crystal Palace, will be less intimidated than in Gothenburg.

In several races today's meeting promises enticing re-runs of the world championship. Sonia O'Sullivan, the new world 5,000m champion, again faces Yvonne Murray, Liz McColgan and Paula Radcliffe, this time over 3,000m. Jonathan Edwards appears in London for the first time since becoming world champion and record holder in the triple jump while in the javelin Jan Zelezny, who beat Steve Backley to gold in Sweden, renews their rivalry. The Americans Darnell Hall and Derek Mills will give Roger Black and Mark Richardson a tough time in the 400m.

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