Christine Ohuruogu: Optimistic despite recent troubles
Wednesday 24 August 2011
Eleven months out from the 2012 Games, there is just the one British track and field athlete getting ready to defend an Olympic title on home ground. When Christine Ohuruogu flew down the finishing straight of the Bird's Nest Stadium to win the 400m final in Beijing in 2008, it seemed that the Stratford girl would be the face of what for her would be a close to home Olympics. Three injury-plagued years on, she is preparing for the 2011 World Championships – which open in Daegu, South Korea, on Saturday - not as a golden hope but as something of an afterthought.
For a third successive summer, Ohuruogu has been firing on less than all of her cylinders. "Many times I thought, 'I can't be arsed to do this any more – scrap the season and just worry about next year'," she confessed. "Many times."
"But then," she said, proceeding in contradictory fashion, "it was always my plan to try to make the championships. No matter how, I wanted to make it."
It is little wonder that the poor woman has been somewhat confused. She happens to be the reigning Olympic 400m champion and yet is ranked only 36th in the world in 2011, and a mere fourth in Britain. Her best time this summer is 51.49sec. Six of her global rivals have broken 50 seconds.
When Ohuruogu emerged victorious from the Barcelona International Meeting on 22 July, it seemed that she was starting to regain something like her old form – form that took her to Commonwealth gold in 2006, World Championship gold in in 2007 and Olympic gold in 2008. But then she could only finish third in the national championships in Birmingham – behind Perri Shakes-Drayton, who will be concentrating on the 400m hurdles in Daegu, and the American-born transferee Shana Cox, who is ineligible to compete for the British team in South Korea.
There was another backward step at Crystal Palace a fortnight ago. Running in the Aviva London Grand Prix, Ohuruogu finished eighth and last in 51.87sec. The truth is the 27-year-old Londoner is still struggling to regain sharpness, with only a limited amount of training behind her since recovering from the blunting setback of a detached quadriceps muscle.
"I know the reality of the 400m," Ohuruogu said. "It's one of the toughest events and you have to follow one of the toughest training regimes. If you haven't put the work in, the other girls have.
"This is a big girl's game. You have to bring everything and be ready for it. You can't miss training sessions here and there. You have to be on it all the time, because these girls are all pretty much after what I have."
What Ohuruogu got in Osaka in 2007 was the world 400m crown in quite exceptional circumstances. She emerged from the one-year suspension she served for missing three drugs tests to take the gold ahead of her British team-mate Nicola Sanders. Hampered by a hamstring injury, she lost the title to Sanya Richards-Ross of the USA in Berlin two years ago, finishing fifth in the final.
Having finished two seconds down on the victorious Richards-Ross at Crystal Palace, it would be one of the upsets of the 2011 World Championships if Ohuruogu were to regain her crown. At the start of the summer she said that "nothing less than a medal" would be acceptable to her in Daegu. Now, despite her continuing struggles on the comeback trail, she is reluctant to revise her target, in public at least.
"My focus never changes for any championship," she said. "My focus going into this championship was always going to be the same. I feel that I've done enough work for me to go out on a good day and run well.
"Other people's expectations don't really matter to me. When I know what I've been through, the only expectation I deal with is the one that I put on myself."
So what is that personal expectation, then, for the reigning Olympic champion and 36th fastest 400m runner of 2011 In Daegu? "I expect that I go out there and do my best," Ohuruogu said. "I want to leave the track knowing that I did everything I could with the time I had."
- 3 Make your voice heard: Sign The Independent's petition to welcome refugees
- 4 Refugee crisis: Aylan's life was full of fear - in death, he is part of 'humanity washed ashore'
- 5 German police forced to ask public to stop bringing donations for refugees arriving by train
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Britain to take more refugees as Cameron bows to pressure after more than 100,000 back our campaign
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up
£28000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: A successful organisation...
£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Internal Recruiter (manufact...
£50000 - £55000 per annum + 25 days holidays & benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Man...
£40000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This software company specialis...