Most people would give an arm to be the Olympic men's 100m champion, but Linford Christie calls his 1992 triumph “just another race”. The victory at the Stuttgart World Championships the subsequent year, he reveals, is sweeter.
Answering questions with an uninhibited ease, the retired British sprinter talked about Barcelona, Usain Bolt, his indifference towards the London Games organizers that have sidelined him, and his satisfying coaching career. Christie is in Bangalore for Sunday's TCS World 10K.
Are you upset about being excluded from the torch relay?
No, not at all. You can see why I'm here. I'm not one of these guys in suits and ties doing all those kind of things. It has never bothered me. I never did anything wrong — if they want to think I did, it's up to them. I do think there should be a life ban on people caught deliberately taking drugs. But, the problem is some people are using that as an agenda to do different things. But you know that's politics. I'll just coach and bring some of the future athletes into the sport.
They say the cheats are always ahead of the WADA…
That's just media jargon. They have to sex everything up and that's what it is. There's no proof at all. A lot of people will say, ‘Oh you can't run this fast, you must be cheating,' and all of a sudden when they run the time, it's OK? A lot of people who write all these stories are ex-sports people who are now in the media. They did sports and because they didn't make it, they want to tarnish everybody else. You just have to ignore them.
What are your memories of your gold medal in Barcelona?
God that was 20 years ago! I knew I was going to win. I felt that from the semifinals. Of all the athletes there I was the most experienced and that counts for a lot. A lot of the guys were nervous. People say it's the Olympic Games — there's pressure — but for me it was just another race. In fact, the World Championships (in 1993) meant a lot more to me.
But most people would call the Olympics the pinnacle of their career…
The hotter the battle, the sweeter is the victory. At the Worlds, I ran 9.87 and second place was 9.92 but in the Olympics it was a lot easier; I was the only person who broke 10 seconds.
Going into the Worlds, Carl Lewis and Andre Cason said I only won (the Olympic 100m) because they weren't there. At Stuttgart, everyone who could run was there. And the outcome was exactly the same. I proved that the Olympic win wasn't just a fluke, a one-off.
What was your rivalry with Carl Lewis like?
Anyone who wants to beat me is a rival. What was good about the rivalry in my era was that Carl Lewis, Frankie Fredericks, Denis Mitchell were all characters in the sport. You got there and you never knew who was going to win. The rivalry creates interest and people want to see it.
Looking ahead to the 100m at London, who do you think is going to win?
There are quite a few good runners but it has to be one of the Jamaicans — Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell, Nesta Carter or Yohan Blake. It's going to be a little bit tougher for Usain, not as easy as it was in previous years. It's good for the sport.
Could Bolt do a reprise of Beijing?
I think the world record in the 200 is a pretty good one. Maybe not. It's still possible that he can win three medals. If he does it'd make him one of the all time greats. Not just the fastest athlete ever but the greatest.
But what is it about him that makes him so good?
He's faster than everybody else (laughs). I always thought to be between 6 and 6'2” was the ideal height but he's proven that he can move his leg as fast as a guy who's 5'5”, which is tremendous. Every now and again in sport you have freaks. Michael Johnson was once that freak, you had Mohammed Ali in boxing. Now it's Usain Bolt.
You took up coaching after your career. How do you find being a coach?
It's an extremely satisfying feeling to see your athletes do well. It's the second-best feeling after winning! Every athlete wants to be an Olympic champion, every coach wants to coach an Olympic champion; and here I am having done both. If I decided to stop now I think I'd have achieved everything I set out to.
Keywords: TCS World 10K