Exclusive Interview: Kriss Akabusi - Legendary Olympian on Team GB's Potential
Legendary athlete, Kriss Akabusi, dominated the sporting scene in the 1980s and 1990s, before venturing into the world of media and business. With gold medals in the 400-metre hurdles, through which he broke the previous British record, and the 4x400 metres, when GB beat the formidable American relay team, Kriss is a symbol of success.
Our Director, Jack Hayes, had the pleasure of interviewing this incredible sportsman, in a tell-all about the life of an Olympic athlete.
Q: What is your favourite medal?
"When I think about medals and the favourite one, I could really choose one from three. I could go to the very first one, which was the Olympics in 1984. I could imagine that people would want me to talk about the relay in 1991. We took on the mighty Americans, they had been undefeated for 50 consecutive years. We changed it all and spun it around. But actually, I’m going to be selfish - my most significant, important medal is the European Championships 1990."
"People got to know Kriss Akabusi but I know who I am, where I come from. A kid from the children’s home. Didn’t have two shillings to rub together. Athletics saved me from a life where I could have got myself a lot of big trouble. And I think that I am the British record holder. I broke the British record in Split in 1990. That record had stood for 22 years. It was held by David Hemery - a legend in my lifetime let alone his own. It stood for 22 years, and me, I had the privilege to break that."
Q: Who is the most talented athlete you raced against?
"The most impressive athlete that I ever competed against was Edwin Moses. Edwin Moses was a 400m hurdler, the best the world has ever seen. He went 122 consecutive finals undefeated. I love the symmetry - 9 years, 9 months, 9 days, [he] took on all-comers. Everyone behind his trail. And he had this elegance, this aura around him."
"I used to love racing Edwin Moses, but I have got to be very careful - I raced with him, not against him. He was always that far ahead. But he was great. When I turned to hurdles he actually got me into it, he actually supported me in my learning and development, and I think that’s because he knew that actually no matter how good you are mate, I’m still going to beat you.
"Edwin Moses, without a shadow of a doubt."
Q: What are Team GB's prospects for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics?
(Note: This interview was recorded before the Olympics being postponed to 2021)
"I don’t want to put a downer - I’m looking forward to the Olympic Games in 2020. But I think we are in a rebuilding phase. We haven’t got a Mo Farah, we haven’t got our Jessica Ennis. I’m hoping that 2020 will be a period where a whole new bunch of athletes, British athletes, herald themselves just coming on the scene. And in the 20s we can cheer them on."
"We have a young lady called Dina Asher-Smith. She did fantastic last year in the World Championships, 100m and 200m champion. She’s clearly here to stay. She’s been around for the last 2 or 3 years. She’s made her mark. I was really pleased to see KJT - Katarina Johnson-Thompson - she won a big one now, with the heptathlon, so again, she should make her mark."
"There’s a guy called Mathew Hudson-Smith. Super-talented athlete, 400m runner. I love the 400m. I’d like to think that he’ll get it all together and he’ll master himself and actually get amongst the medals. There will be a few stars, some of them might not even be noticeable at this moment in time. Watch this space."
Q: What is your favourite stadium?
"I’ve raced all over the world and if you asked me where my favourite stadium is, I would be tempted to say L.A. 1984, all the razzmatazz of the United States of America. Or I could say southern Spain, Jerez, Granda, Sevliia, a little further up Madrid, where I had some cracking races."
"But I’m going to say - Gateshead. Gateshead was febrile, partisan, the crowd were all for you, quite closed in, and they were great nights of athletics. I went out there in the 400m hurdles, very first race, I won it for my country, got the four points. And I beat Harold Schmidt and that launched me into world-class athletics, so Gateshead man, wayaye!"
Q: What keeps you motivated?
"What gets you out of bed? One, your training partner. You know life is a little bit easier if you’ve got a buddy by your side. And you might let yourself down but you ain’t letting your partner down."
"I would also say, I knew that around the world somewhere, there’s somebody in your event who’s staying in bed. I’m one-up against him. And so the idea that you’re not going to let buddy down, that you need this as a building block and actually it’s what we do, it’s my environment - gets me out each day and every day."
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Jack Hayes was appointed Director of the Champions Speakers agency in 2012 becoming one of the youngest Directors in the UK. A year later, Jack became a founding member of the European Association of Speakers Bureaux (EASB) collaborating with speaker... Read more
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