Lewis puts the heat on Mitchell

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The Independent Online
Carl Lewis is nearly back. The winner of eight Olympic gold medals, running in the opening meeting at the Centennial Olympic Stadium, showed at least a glimpse of his former mastery of the 100 metres in the Atlanta Grand Prix yesterday as he nearly snatched victory in the final stride from Dennis Mitchell.

Lewis last won a major title in 1991 and until yesterday it had been five years since he had run inside 10 seconds, but as he approaches his 35th birthday the embers within him of an Olympic ambition appear ready to catch light again.

As of old, Lewis did not enjoy the best of starts, lumbering out of his blocks at least two metres down on the early leader, Jon Drummond, Mitchell and the Canadian Donovan Bailey, the man who deposed Linford Christie as world champion.

But, as of old, it was Lewis's burning late pace which almost snatched the win. Mitchell, though, was given the decision with 9.93sec, 100th of a second faster than Lewis, as the first four men all broke 10 seconds.

The message for British Olympic hopes from early performances in the new stadium were clear: Americans on their home turf will be tough to beat.

Tony Jarrett had the least auspicious start. After five attempts to get the 110m hurdles underway, Britain's World Championship silver medallist was disqualified for twice trying to beat the starter's gun.

In front of the biggest crowd ever to see a grand prix meeting, the entry list for the competitions which followed the opening ceremony were of the highest quality. In the hurdles, with Jarrett eliminated, the race was a thrilling match between Allen Johnson, winner of last year's world title, and Mark Crear, the man ranked No 1 in 1995 despite failing to make the American team. The two big men cleared the final flight almost shoulder to shoulder, but it was Crear who was fastest. Despite the uncertainties at the start, he still recorded 13.29sec to Johnson's 13.31. If Colin Jackson is to fulfil his Olympic ambitions against these men in two months' time, he will need to be at the very top of his form.

The loudest reception was reserved for Atlanta's own 100m world champion, Gwen Torrence. She stopped the clock at 10.85sec, by some way the best time in the world this year. The new track will clearly see its fair share of records during the 17 days of glory this summer.

The US Vice-President, Al Gore, opened the $209m (pounds 138m) stadium with suitable pomp. A shame, then, that in three months, after just another three track meetings, half the edifice will be torn down and restructured to make way for a new home for the Atlanta Braves baseball team.