King Christie is usurped

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The Independent Online
Linford Christie's farewell race in Britain - we'll come back to that - failed to conform to the ideal here yesterday as he was beaten by a fellow Briton in a 100 metres final for the first time in 10 years.

A decade after losing to Allan Wells at Crystal Palace, the 36-year-old former Olympic champion finished behind another Scotsman - Ian Mackie, a 21-year-old from Dunfermline who was recently signed up by Christie's management group, Nuff Respect.

Mackie's form this season during which he reached the Olympic semi-finals has been so outstanding that he has been asked to join Christie and fellow Olympic medallists Frankie Fredericks and Merlene Ottey for warm weather training in Australia this autumn.

It is a heady environment for a 6ft 1in, 13st sprinter who, this time last year, was running times around 10.8sec for his club. "Running with the world's fastest is just what I need," Mackie said. " It's something that I have to do."

Before yesterday's race at the McDonald's Games, the final domestic meeting of the season, his best was 10.24sec. He took 0.07sec off that in holding off Christie on the line as both men finished behind Osmond Izinwa, of Nigeria, who won in 10.06.

"I'm a bit sorry," Mackie said. "It's Linford's last race in Britain and he would obviously have liked to have won it."

Five years ago, Mackie got Christie's autograph after a meeting at Meadowbank. "I was only 15, and he was my hero," Mackie recalled. "It made my day."

His efforts here hardly the did the same for Christie, but the latter had had more on his mind than a single race. Appearing close to tears as he told spectators and ITV viewers that this would be his last professional race in this country.

"I've had 16 years as a member of the British team and have only been beaten by British runners twice," he said. "I don't think that's a bad record."

While he now intends to run only club races in Britain, the question of whether he might make one final team appearance at next season's European Cup in Munich remains open.

After last Monday's meeting in Gateshead he expressed willingness to compete but yesterday it was clear that he had taken umbrage at the comments of Malcolm Arnold, Britain's chief coach,who had said he would go into the queue for places. "The best one gets the place," Arnold added.

Christie still believes he is still the best, at least in Europe, and if he is still training with the likes of Fredericks he will presumably be in the shape to demonstrate it next season should one of his favourite European promoters invite him to run.

So the king is dead - up to a point. Long live the king - or at least, one of the main pretenders.

"Ian has great potential," Christie said. "One race doesn't make you a champion, but he's got a good head on his shoulders. Scotsmen have a lot of aggression, and that's what you need to be a good sprinter."

Mackie, who lives with his parents and has been unemployed for the last two years, sensibly pointed out that he is one of several talented young British sprinters, and that he still has much to learn.

Ashia Hansen, who raised her Commonwealth triple jump record here for the second time in nine days, to 14.78m, has taken time to learn about major championships, where she has often failed to qualify for the final. But her achievement in coming fourth at the Olympics has given her a confidence which bodes well for next season.

A crowd of 10,085 also enjoyed the performance of the Olympic 400m silver medallist Roger Black, who underlined his domestic superiority with victory in 45.05sec. Du'Aine Ladejo, who bet Black pounds 1,000 that he would better his British record by the end of the season, is now presumably free to pay up. "The cheque's in the post," Black said with a grin.