Pressure on Christie to reconsider

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Athletics

MIKE ROWBOTTOM

Linford Christie was urged yesterday to think long and hard before quitting athletics at the end of the season, as he vowed to do in an emotional outburst on television on Monday night.

A number of people within athletics, including the former mile world record holder Steve Cram, the British Athletic Federation's spokesman, Tony Ward, and even his old rival Carl Lewis appealed to Christie not to end his career prematurely, although his long-time coach, Ron Roddan, said he thought Christie would stick by the decision.

Christie - belatedly appointed British team captain yesterday for the rest of the season after apparent confusion over procedure - was also advised to "stop reading the papers" after blaming media pressure for his decision not to go on to defend the Olympic 100m title in Atlanta next year.

"I can't take any more, I just can't," Christie said on ITV's Sport In Question, pausing momentarily to recompose himself. "I'm at the stage where I am so fed up I could walk away any day. When I get this season over, that's it. I'm definitely not going to the Olympic Games."

Roddan commented: "I know he has talked of retiring before, but now I believe his mind is made up. He has been on about it for some time and I don't blame him."

Christie, however, has often changed his mind in the past - he said he would quit in 1991 after the Tokyo world championships. Only 10 days ago, talking about retirement, he said his career would end "when he threw his spikes into the crowd at Atlanta".

Ward believes the matter is still open to doubt. "He was obviously highly charged on Monday night and personally I would prefer to wait until after the world championships to see if he sticks to his decision."

Ward also cleared up the question of why no team captains were included when the European Cup sides were announced on Monday. It was mistakenly assumed that such nominations were the province of the selection committee, which did not have time to consider them on Sunday night. In fact, the posts are directly in the gift of the team management, and Christie was duly re-appointed, with a woman captain due to be named later this week. Nothing to do with the pay negotiations, then.

Christie is currently under pressure both on and off the track. He has lost four of his five races this season, but what concerns him more is his continuing disagreement with the British Athletic Federation over how much appearance money he should be paid this season. He said on Monday that he would not race in the opening televised domestic meeting at Gateshead on 2 July, and he placed doubt by implication on his appearance at subsequent British promotions.

The Federation, which still has to find sponsors for three of its five televised meetings this season, says it is having to economise as it seeks to bring in a new, graded payment structure.

Christie, who is due to race in Nuremburg tomorrow, thinks he is being unfairly singled out to take a pay cut. He cites an incident that took place last season as indication that the Federation has sufficient funds available, claiming that Ian Stewart, head of the BAF promotions unit, offered him pounds 100,000 to race Leroy Burrell in Britain shortly after the American had broken the 100m world record. Christie turned the suggestion down, preferring to meet Burrell later in the season.

Lewis, responding to Christie's predicament said. "The only thing I could say to Linford would be, whatever you do, do it because you want to do it. Don't let anyone run you out. If you do you will regret it for the rest of your life."

The two faces of Christie, page 26

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