OLYMPICS / Barcelona 1992: Athletics: Skah rides storm

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KHALID SKAH'S status as the most unpopular Olympic champion in history was confirmed yesterday as he received his 10,000 metres gold medal to a summer storm of boos and whistles, writes Mike Rowbottom.

The 65,000 souls inside the Montjuic stadium were doing all they could to let Skah know that they had not forgiven him for the advantage they thought he had gained over the eventual silver medallist, Richard Chelimo, after a lapped fellow Moroccan, Hammou Boutayeb, had accelerated past the two leaders to place himself in front of the Kenyan.

The disapproval registered as Skah stepped jauntily out to the podium matched that which accompanied his ferocious sprint to the line ahead of Chelimo in Tuesday's final. After leaning forward to accept the prize which was taken away from him immediately after his race and restored 14 hours later on appeal, he clapped and smiled in the face of the reproving gale. It was rather like watching Norman Hunter trying to grin his way into favour with the referee after bringing down some hapless forward.

Chelimo, predictably, received huge acclaim; Skah shuffled over on the podium to take, rather than shake, his hand and earn some acclaim by association.

'If somebody shouts, the rest follow them,' Skah said afterwards. 'Almost all the people are not very close to the athletics world. I deserve this medal.'

He paused for a moment before adding: 'My name will always be engraved in the history of the Olympic Games.' Quite so.

Britain's first gold medallist of the Games, Linford Christie, failed to qualify for the 200m final in a race where Mike Marsh, of the United States, came within 0.01sec of Pietro Mennea's world record of 19.72, set at altitude 13 years ago.

It also saw John Regis equal Christie's British record time of 20.09 - all the more of an achievement considering that Regis has had cortisone injections this week for a strained left hamstring.

In the long jump, Carl Lewis gained a psychological edge over the world champion, Mike Powell, as both reached today's final with first-time efforts of 8.68m and 8.14 respectively.