World Athletics Championships: Gunnell seeks equal status with Christie

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The Independent Online
SALLY GUNNELL indicated yesterday that she would not compete at the McDonald's Games in Sheffield next Friday unless she was offered the same money as Linford Christie.

Speaking the day after she had added the world 400 metres hurdles title and world record to the Olympic gold medal she won last summer, Gunnell, the 27-year-old farmer's daughter from Chigwell, made it clear she is gaining a toughness off the track to match that she displays in competition.

Looking ahead to her next meeting after Stuttgart, she said: 'I want to go in there earning the same as Linford. People will probably say: 'You are a world record-holder, shouldn't you be paid more?' But I still see Linford as a very, very popular man with British fans. There are a lot of people coming to watch him. But a lot of those people are coming to watch me as well so I think we should be on par. That's what I'm going to be suggesting.'

Asked whether she would not attend the meeting if she was not satisfied with the money offered by Britain's promotions officer, Andy Norman, she replied: 'Yes. I think that's the attitude I've got to take now. I've got to toughen up a bit. It was a whole new learning phase last year. I thought I was tough enough, but probably in many cases I should have stood up and argued a bit more.

'I argued a lot more than I ever did in the past, but now I've gone onto that next stage. I think you've got get out of it what you want and what you are really worth.'

Before these championships, Gunnell's going rate for appearing at meetings both at home and abroad was about pounds 10,000; Christie's was about pounds 25,000. That discrepancy, publicised through a report from the British Athletic Federation's women's advisory group, has annoyed her.

Thursday night's victory puts her in a stronger position to demand a better relative deal. As it is, the performance will earn her about dollars 60,000 (pounds 40,000) in bonuses from her sponsor,, and a dollars 30,000 Mercedes offered to all winners here.

Gunnell, who plans to defend her Olympic title in Atlanta three years hence, before considering retirement, believes women athletes in general should get a better deal, but is aware that there is an important balance to be struck.

'In other countries, athletes are given kit and a car when they are not even in the national team,' she said. 'In our system, you have to fight, and that is how I have achieved what I have. I do believe you've got to prove yourself.' No athlete could have done more than her in that respect. Her discussions with Andy Norman will surely be fruitful; ITV will not want the golden girl from Essex missing in Sheffield.

(Photograph omitted)