Olympics 1992 Thursday 6 August: Hail the happening man: Kriss Akabusi - 400 metres hurdles: Final 6.0pm

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The Independent Online
Kriss Akabusi somehow always manages to surprise, not least himself. In the year of his conversion from the 400 metres flat, aided by Ed Moses, he finished seventh in the 1987 world championship. In Seoul he was sixth, behind the American trio and others. In last year's world championship he was third, and he threatens to improve on that in Barcelona.

Not that the genial Akabusi threatens to do anything - he gives the impression that things just happen to him. His reaction after winning the European Championship in 1990, breaking David Hemery's long-standing British record, was typical: 'I just went loopy. I couldn't help it.'

What has happened since the last Olympics, independently of Akabusi's progress, is the erosion of American superiority. It was Samuel Matete of Zambia and the Jamaican Winthrop Graham who led Akabusi last year. With Moses retired and Danny Harris suspended for cocaine abuse, the fourth-placer in both Seoul and Tokyo, Kevin Young, is left to uphold the American reputation. Young was impressive at the US trials, dipping under 48 seconds - and he was pushed to the line by David Patrick. He has since defeated the opposition on the European circuit, but for some it takes a championship for things to happen.

Each of the three occasions that Akabusi has run under 48 seconds have been in championships, each time improving on the previous. Akabusi's confidence that he can rise to what is required of him in Barcelona was evident at the time of Young's trial win. 'What they are doing now is irrelevant,' he said. 'Barcelona is what matters.'

Akabusi's belief that his performances are God-given does not mean that preparation can be neglected. He studies at theological college in southern California, which is a useful winter training base. He was there until May, but missed early season competition through injury. Enforced restraint can have its benefits, though: 'It is much better for Kriss to be the underdog,' said his coach, Mike Whittingham. 'He's usually a good championship performer and he is motivated by challenges like that.'

(Photograph omitted)

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