Passed/Failed: An education in the life of the Olympic gold medallist Christine Ohuruogu

'Sport was fine – if I got the grades'


Christine Ohuruogu, 25, MBE, is the first British female Olympic champion in the 400 metres. She has just launched the Aviva UKA Academy, a sports programme which aims to provide every child with the chance to be involved in athletics www.aviva.com/athletics.

In my second year in juniors I remember noticing the word "altogether" was quite long – but quite easy as it was based on three different words. Later, at university, I found linguistics was tremendous fun and I hope to be able to use it at some point, perhaps as a teacher. It looks at the structure and science of language and the common thread behind languages.

I loved West Ham Church of England primary school in East London; I went back there recently and they did an assembly about me. I was pretty active and playtime was the best time of the day for me.

I also loved St Edwards, a large, mixed Church of England comprehensive in Romford. It had very good facilities and I started taking netball seriously. I didn't make the team the first time and I vowed never to play again but then I went back and got picked. I did hockey and rounders and tennis in the summer and also trampolining and basketball. I joined in with athletics much later.

The boys had their own sports. The girls' interest in netball dwindled as the years went by and fewer and fewer would join in; I could never understand why. I was motivated because I wanted to make the team. I'm helping to launch the Aviva UKA Academy. As a kid growing up it would have been helpful in making sports more accessible to people of all abilities: just try! People are very competitive and if you didn't make the team you didn't play.

I did all right in my GCSEs, with one A* and six As. I don't think I was top of my year: it was a very bright year group. I felt it was time for a change and for the sixth form I went to Trinity Catholic High School in Woodford Green. I did history, English and biology at A-level and psychology AS. I was a bit disappointed that I didn't get good grades but I got into the university I wanted.

I'd wanted to get away and picked five universities outside London and only one in London – but when it came to it I couldn't leave home and the coach I was working with (I was playing netball internationally for the England under-17 team) so I went to University College London. It was the best decision I ever made.

I wanted to do English Language and literature but UCL only offered linguistics and I chose that and hoped I'd like it. I think people were quite happy with my doing so much sport as long as I got the grades. It was a very hectic time and I was under a lot of pressure: I was in the England under-19s. I did turn up for a couple of matches for UCL but it was hard to be a regular player as I had to do my England training.

I got a 2.1. I was hoping the idea for a career would fall out of the sky. By the time I left university I was focused on athletics. I won the Commonwealth Games and was pretty much set up in terms of my athletic career. Do I think my sister Victoria, who is a sprinter, should have a career in athletics too? She's only 15: we just want her to pass her exams!

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