1990-95: Linford Christie

Fox's 20th Century

Britain's most successful athlete of all time has twice failed drugs tests. So perhaps it would be prudent to omit him from this series on the great and good of the century. It would also be unreasonable. At the height of this Olympic champion's career there was no evidence that he was one of the many athletes whose cheating led to the sport being diminished.

Britain's most successful athlete of all time has twice failed drugs tests. So perhaps it would be prudent to omit him from this series on the great and good of the century. It would also be unreasonable. At the height of this Olympic champion's career there was no evidence that he was one of the many athletes whose cheating led to the sport being diminished.

His record over 100 metres, 200m and sprint relays was extraordinary. He won 23 medals at international championships including 10 golds, yet he did not reach his peak until after the age of 30 when, in 1992, he won his Olympic gold in Barcelona. Although he officially retired in 1997, his competitive nature, and possibly his vanity, has kept him involved at a lower level as well as coaching.

He came to Britain from St Andrews, Jamaica, when he was seven, and the seven members of the family lived in two rooms in Shepherds Bush. His athletics talent was spotted by Ron Roddan, who remained his coach throughout his career. When Christie was in his mid-20s Roddan and the promoter Andy Norman had to warn him that he was in danger of wasting his talent and their time by not working hard enough.

He shared his successes with Roddan and Britain in equal proportions. He was immensely patriotic. When he became European 100m champion in 1986 he wrapped himself in a Union Jack. His breakthrough came earlier that year in the European indoor championships where he won the 200m. He went on to win three European 100m titles outdoors.

His peak was 1992-93 when, after threatening to retire, he became Olympic and world champion. His previous Olympic appearance in Seoul needed to be swept from his mind. His drugs test there had been positive but the IOC accepted that the substance in his sample was not a performance enhancing steroid. Barcelona brought him victory in 9.96sec - not bad for a 32-year-old - but he said that beating Carl Lewis (who had missed the Olympics) in the following summer's World Championships gave him more pleasure. His defence of the Olympic 100m title in Atlanta ended after reaching the final in which he made two false starts.

Christie's career-long suspicion of the press was often justified, but his attitude to criticism could be ruthless. Rows in public were not unusual. He was accused of taking more money from the sport than it could afford, but he poured plenty back in support of young athletes.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
A still from a scene cut from The Interview showing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's death.
tech
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
Arts and Entertainment
Bianca Miller and Katie Bulmer-Cooke are scrutinised by Lord Sugar's aide Nick Hewer on The Apprentice final
tvBut Bianca Miller has taken on board his comments over pricing
News
in picturesWounded and mangy husky puppy rescued from dump
News
newsAstonishing moment a kangaroo takes down a drone
Life and Style
Duchess of Cambridge standswith officials outside of the former wartime spy centre in Bletchley Park
tech
News
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: World Wide PLC Service Engineer

£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...

The Jenrick Group: Project Manager

£35000 per annum + Pension+Bupa: The Jenrick Group: We are recruiting for an e...

The Jenrick Group: Night Shift Operations Manager

£43500 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Night Shift Operatio...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'