OLYMPICS / Barcelona 1992: Javelin: Qualified success for Backley

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STEVE BACKLEY, of Britain, yesterday qualified safely for this evening's javelin final, thus avoiding the calamity which befell him at last year's World Championships, writes Mike Rowbottom. But his performance raised uncomfortable questions about whether he will realise his highest ambition here in the Montjuic stadium.

After taking two throws to get over the automatic qualifying distance of 80 metres - 79.36m and 80.76 - he came away with an ice pack on the inside of his right elbow. Just a precautionary measure, said a team official. But clearly something to worry about.

Backley was obviously unhappy with the way things had gone. 'That was stupid of me,' he muttered to himself. 'What happened in Tokyo was going through my mind,' he said. 'But complacency nearly got the better of me. The warm-up went so well.'

He finished as the fifth-best thrower on the day, behind the best performance of 83.96 from the man who took the world record off him last month, Jan Zelezny of Czechoslovakia. Backley's training partner, Mick Hill, also reached the final with a throw of 79.66.

In the evening, Heike Drechsler, of Germany, won a long jump in which only five centimetres separated her from the bronze medallist and defending champion, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, and just two centimetres from the Unified Team's Inessa Kravets.

The shot put was won by Svetlana Kriveleva, of the Unified Team, in the unexpected absence of her compatriot, the world record holder, Natalia Lisovskaya, who turned out to be injured.

The British men's 4x400 metres team reached the final thanks to a fine last leg by Du'Aine Ladejo, whose place looks in jeopardy today with the new British record holder, Dave Grindley and, perhaps, John Regis waiting to come in. Had the 21-year-old not held off Japan's Takahiro Watanabe to retain the second automatic qualifying place there would be no prospect of heroics for Britain today.

Their counterparts in the 4x100m semi-final also advanced to the final despite a chaotic start to the day before their morning first round when four of the squad - Tony Jarrett, Jason John, Marcus Adam and Darren Braithwaite - slept in and missed their bus. Linford Christie, left kicking his heels at the stadium, was not impressed.