Christopher gearing up

ROB LONGLEY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:02 AM ET

Tyler Christopher still has roughly 14 weeks to see if he can figure out a way to get a leg up on the world's fastest 400-metre man.

But the Edmonton sprinter won't have to wait much longer to learn where he stands as he embarks on the most important season of his young career.

The world indoor champion will begin his outdoor campaign quietly tomorrow in Modesto, Calif., competing in a race that isn't even his featured distance. But a week later, Christopher will tackle reigning world outdoor and Olympic champ and the heavy favourite in Beijing, Jeremy Wariner of the U.S..

"It is important for me to know where I stand," Christopher said recently of Wariner, who has been virtually unbeatable for the past four years. "But when I'm in a race I'm also there to compete."

That might be less so this weekend at Modesto where Christopher will be looking to do little more than stretch his legs in the 200-metre race his coach, Kevin Tyler, has scheduled to open his season. When he moves to the Adidas Track Classic the following week in Carson, Calif., he'll face Wariner in the 400 and the race to China will unofficially begin.

Tyler has put together a relatively light schedule to prepare Christopher for the Olympics as the talented, but at times high-strung, sprinter looks to build on the indoor crown he claimed in Spain this past winter.

"After he runs against Wariner he'll race June 8 at the Prefontaine meet in Oregon, then we will have one or two events in Europe after that," Tyler said this week from his home base at the Canadian Athletic Coaching Centre in Edmonton.

"The idea is to get him ready for Beijing. He doesn't have to race every week to do that."

PROMISING SEASON

The start of what could be a promising season for Christopher is intriguing on a number of levels. Though he didn't have to face Wariner at the world indoors, the 24-year-old Chilliwack, B.C., native clearly is entering the prime of his career.

Though he just missed qualifying for Athens in 2004, he had a breakthrough showing the following year when he finished third at the world championships in Helsinki, Finland, in a race won by Wariner.

As well, with the injury woes that are plaguing hurdler Perdita Felicien, Christopher arguably is Canada's brightest hope for a medal at the Olympic track meet in Beijing.

"Because of the competitor I am, I want to be No. 1 in the world," Christopher told the Canadian Press recently. "I don't want to go there and get knocked out in the first round and say I gave it my best shot."


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