Olympics 1992 Friday 31 July: A last dash for the line: Linford Christie - 100 metres: Round 1 10.30am, round 2 5.35pm

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The Independent Online
Seconds after finishing fourth in last year's world championships in Tokyo with a new European record, Linford Christie was announcing his retirement. It was a false alarm, but if he needed any encouragement to stay on for this year's Olympics, he got it when he beat Dennis Mitchell in the Bratislava Grand Prix event.

Mitchell, Christie's junior by six years, went on to win the US trial in a time equalled by Christie in the British trial a week later. Since then Christie has traded wins with the Nigerian Olapade Adeniken, who also scored victory over Mitchell. In Barcelona traditional American dominance of the event could be upset, and Christie leads the challenge.

Mitchell just stole a jump on Christie for a bronze medal in Tokyo last year, but in winning the US Olympic trial he bettered both other American medallists from Tokyo, Carl Lewis and Leroy Burrell. Defending Olympic champion Carl Lewis failed to qualify for Barcelona, and Burrell is yet to find full form this season. Apart from Mitchell, Christie's main opposition will be Adeniken and Frankie Fredericks of Namibia, who was just behind him in Tokyo.

In Lewis's absence Christie should be the oldest of the Olympic finalists by some way. Now 32, he broke through relatively late when he won the European title in 1986. It took longer to make the world frame. In 1987 he performed above expectations to finish fourth in the world championships, and in Seoul he again excelled to take Olympic silver behind Carl Lewis and a subsequently- disqualified Ben Johnson.

The man who coached Johnson to his illegal but impressive performance in Seoul, Charlie Francis, mentally sorted the eight finalists into four tiers at the time. Christie was in the third rank, behind Johnson and Lewis in their exclusive categories. Even Christie's own coach, Ron Roddan, thought he would finish fourth or fifth. Christie himself declared: 'My dream was to run under 10 seconds.'

Now Christie is in the front rank he must have other dreams. For him to win Olympic gold is certainly possible: it depends on holding to form in technical matters. Starting has always been his major problem, finishing his strength. The crouched position leaves little room for Christie's long legs as his 6ft 3in frame uncoils from the starting blocks in the first few strides, and wide foot placements waste energy with lateral movement. His anxiousness to reduce the disadvantage can lead directly to a false start, and having to hold back the second time around.

In the 200m, where Christie will also hope to improve on his bronze from Seoul, starting does not count for quite so much, but the overall task will be harder for him.

(Photograph omitted)