World Championships 2013: It's all about family not glory, insists 400m champion Christine Ohuruogu

400m champion is now Britain's greatest female athlete but her siblings keep her feet on ground

Moscow

It was the morning after the fight before and Christine Ohuruogu, the Muhammad Ali of British women's track and field, was coming to terms with the significance of the last-gasp knock-out that floored her Botswanan rival in the World Championship 400m final. "I've seen the race back and I cringed," she said, reflecting on how she came to snatch victory from the molars of defeat – a victory that makes her, with two World Championship crowns and one Olympic gold, the greatest female British athlete of all time in terms of global titles.

"How you see it in your head is never how it replays on camera," the Londoner continued. "I am just surprised at how I managed to stay so calm in what looks like a really bad place, but I think experience always wins. It never crossed my mind coming down the home straight that I might not win. For me, a race isn't won until it's finished."

Yes, but 10 metres down coming into the home straight, and still three metres adrift with only 15 to go? That is not so much lost cause territory as dead and buried ground.

That Ohuruogu managed to dig herself back up to victory – by a margin of 0.04sec from the stunned Amantle Montsho – confirmed her credentials as a championship fighter supreme. It had been a similar story when she claimed her first one-lap world title in Osaka in 2007, and her Olympic gold in Beijing in 2008.

To appreciate where that degree of fighting spirit comes from, according to Ohuruogu's long-time coach and guiding light, Lloyd Cowan, you have to go back to the dark days of 2006-07 when his young charge had to face the opprobrium for missing three drugs tests and served a 12-month suspension. When she emerged from her ban to win in Osaka, several columnists back home suggested that her gold medal ought to be discounted from the British tally.

"My conversation with her at that time was, 'If you go through something like this, then nothing should ever faze you in your life, because this is vicious – very, very vicious'," Cowan recalled. "It was my job to get her back in there. I told her, 'I'm not saying it's a hatred thing but think that everyone's your enemy, and if you win everyone loves you. The thing is, the more you win the more they love you'."

Ohuruogu's natural fighting spirit has also been hardened by the experience of a ripped thigh muscle which threatened to curtail her career in 2009 and 2010. "It screwed me over big time," she confessed. "I wouldn't say I was close to packing it in but I was really beginning to question whether this was the right path for me. I was beginning to think, 'Is my time up?'

"I managed to get better but then I got disqualified for a false start at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu. I thought, 'Maybe my time is up. Enough is enough. I have an Olympic gold medal. I have already got a World Championship gold medal. Maybe I was being greedy'."

It was Cowan who persuaded Ohuruogu to carry on. Olympic silver on home ground in Stratford last summer showed that the East End girl was getting back to her best and with her grandstand finish on Monday night, she not only reclaimed her former place at the global summit of quarter-miling but also produced the best time of her life. Her winning time of 49.41sec broke Kathy Cook's British record, which had stood since the year Ohuruogu was born, 1984.

Cowan, who watched the dramatic dénouement unfold on a television outside the toilet at the warm-up track – "I get too wound up to watch in the stadium" – is convinced that his charge can go significantly quicker yet: "She has more in the tank."

As the first female British athlete to claim three global (World Championship or Olympic) titles, though, Ohuruogu can already claim to be the greatest of all time.

Not that the quietly spoken, introspective linguistics graduate was giving herself the fanfare treatment. Asked whether she considered herself "The Greatest", she replied emphatically: "No. I'm Christine. I just go and train.

"My sister's here. My crazy brothers are at home. That's what keeps me happy…I don't do this for the titles."

News
people

Actress sees off speculation about her appearance in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
Serge Pizzorno of Kasabian and Noel Fielding backstage at the Teenage Cancer Trust concerts
musicKasabian and Noel Fielding attack 'boring' musicians
News
videoWatch Lynda Bellingham's tragic final Loose Women appearance
Arts and Entertainment
The last great picture - Winner 'Black and White' and overall 'Wildlife Photographer of the Year'
art
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
High notes, flat performance: Jake Bugg
music

Review: Despite an uphill climb to see Jake Bugg in action, his performance is notably flat

News
The Putin automaton will go on sale next month in Germany
videoMusical Putin toy showing him annexing Crimea could sell for millions
News
news

Powerful images of strays taken moments before being put down

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
S Club 7 pose for Children in Need 2001
music
Arts and Entertainment
'Right Here' singer Jess Glynne is nominated for Best Newcomer at the MOBO Awards 2014
musicExclusive: Jess Glynne hits out at 'ridiculous' criticism of white artists nominated for Mobo Awards
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voices

Arts and Entertainment
Russell Brand has written a book of political analysis called Revolution
books

Review: Witty banalities aside, the comedian has an authentic voice

Arts and Entertainment
Separated at birth? Frank Sivero (left) claims The Simpsons based Mafia character Louie on his Goodfellas character
arts + entsFrank Sivero sues Simpsons studio over allegedly basing mobster character on Frank Carbone
News
Carl Bernstein (left) and Bob Woodward (right) with former 'Washington Post' executive editor Ben Bradlee
people

The Washington Post editor helped Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein bring down President Nixon

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

HLTA - Higher Level Teaching Assistant

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Science Teacher

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Science teacher requi...

Deputy Head of Science

£36000 - £60000 per annum: Randstad Education Southampton: Our client are a we...

IT Teacher

£22000 - £32000 per annum + TLR: Randstad Education Southampton: Our client is...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London