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NO DIGNITY, NO STYLE, NO GRACE; Throwing training shoes in the bin isn't.

He should have gone with dignity, sportsmanship and good grace.

Instead all we were left with was the memory of a man who threw his training shoes into a dustbin because he didn't get his own way.

At 36, perhaps time stared out Linford Christie. Maybe, when he put on his race face - that mask of frozen concentration he wears before he runs - Britain's greatest sprinter caught a glimpse of the future, and didn't like what he saw.

It was an unblinking stare. Yet also I suggest there was fear there too, as if he was seeing a vivid premonition that his career might well belong in the past and his time as a world star was over.

The reality that there were faster men in the final would have been a massive blow to Christie's pride.

Did that have anything to do with the two false starts?

In the end, Christie went out in controversy. It wasn't the way a true champion should bow out. It wasn't the way for Linford to go after so many achievements as one of our greatest sporting ambassadors.

However he tries to play it, he can't escape the truth that the electronic bleep didn't lie. He had two false starts and deserved to go. It's tough but those are the rules.

There was no way he'd have won a medal in that competition. But he can now spin out what is left of his career, still a major draw, and money earner.

That would've been unlikely if he'd shown he was just another sprinter who was past his best.

But Christie didn't go with the dignity we expected of a man of his standing in the world of sport. He didn't surrender his crown with the style of a true champion.

The facts are that he beat the starter's gun not once, but twice, and was disqualified for a second time by 0.86 of a second.

TV evidence showed he was at fault. But instead of accepting it with sportsmanship and good grace, Christie took the red disc on his lane marker that indicated he was out, and snarled: "I'm racing."

He wasn't allowed, so he stalked off the track and sulked.

After a sensational 100m, and Donovan Bailey's new world record run of 9.84 seconds, he walked the length of the track to console his training partner Frankie Fredericks - beaten into second place - then left the stadium alone.

Why wasn't he capable of suffering the pain of defeat with some style?

Is it because he has too much conceit? To be publicly shown to be second best would have scoured his very soul.

Of course the margins of error needed to deliberately beat the gun are so fine as to be almost indefinable. In Christie's case no more than the bat of an eyelid.

Linford proved he is not a good loser. Imagine his dismay at seeing times in the heats that were faster - and the awful feeling he was no longer invincible.

It is no discredit to be beaten. The trick is to take it like a man.

So Bailey is the champion and he avenges the shame brought on Canada by Ben Johnson's drug-induced victory in Seoul eight years ago.

Bailey watched that race in a Toronto bar, and said: "If I've laid that disgrace to rest then thank God."

But what drama. Not once, but twice then three times an 80,000 crowd were hushed into total silence.

In the end Christie walked, not ran. He did not defend his title and ended his Olympic career with so many questions left unanswered.

But then that is the nature of the man, that is what has made him our greatest sprinter. He runs on his terms and has probably achieved more than any British athlete.

That, more than anything, should make him take his defeat like a man.
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Copyright 1996 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

 
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Title Annotation:Sport
Author:Clarke, Nigel
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jul 29, 1996
Words:650
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