'Running 100m is like being in a trance'

"If you hear anything, you are not concentrating. You can see through the side of your eyes when people are getting close. I didn’t see anybody and when I don’t see anybody, I know I’m winning." That’s Linford Christie, the 100m champion at the Barcelona Olympics, on what goes on in an athlete’s mind when running a race.

“When I heard the national anthem, it came home to me that I was the reason they were playing it. There was a lump in my throat but I had to fight it; there was no way I was going to cry,” says Linford Christie.   -  Getty Images

What goes on in an athlete’s head when he is running to the Olympic 100m gold?

Linford Christie offered a wonderful insight into the race in Barcelona where he became the world’s fastest man at the 1992 Olympics.

“I can’t tell you anything about the reaction of the crowd. You don’t hear the noise when you’re running. It’s like being in a trance,” says Christie, in his book, To Be Honest With You.

“If you hear anything, you are not concentrating. You can see through the side of your eyes when people are getting close. I didn’t see anybody and when I don’t see anybody, I know I’m winning.”

That race was very special, for it made Christie, then 32, the oldest Olympic 100m champion. And a range of emotions played in his mind when the British national anthem was played.

“When I heard the national anthem, it came home to me that I was the reason they were playing it. There was a lump in my throat but I had to fight it; there was no way I was going to cry,” says the Jamaica-born Brit.

“I always remember that Michael Johnson cried once, and that the picture was used over and over again. I was not going to give them the chance to do that to me.”

NOT A HAPPY FLIGHT BACK HOME

Still, Christie was not a very happy man on the flight back home after the Barcelona Games.

On the night of Christie’s most memorable race, a warrant had been issued for his younger brother Russell’s arrest back home for allegedly stealing clothes and for handling stolen credit cards.

That news was given as much prominence as Christie’s golden run in Barcelona in the British tabloids the next day. So, one could imagine his feelings.

WELL, IT HAPPENS IN THE US TOO!

The transport system at the Centennial Olympics in Atlanta, USA, in 1996 was so chaotic that some of the athletes could not get to their events on time. A couple of baseball games were delayed because buses carrying the USA, Japan and the Netherlands teams arrived late and one fencer landed just 10 minutes before his event.

The situation was so bad that Britain’s Steve Redgrave, the most titled rower in history, who won gold medals at five consecutive Olympics, moved out of the Games Village in disgust, worried that the Olympic transportation would not get him to his venue on time.

RECORD FLOAT!

Eric Moussambani of Equatorial Guinea in the west of Africa did not win a medal at the 2000 Sydney Games, but he set a record of sorts, becoming the slowest-ever swimmer to win an Olympic race.

The 22-year-old, swimming for the first time in a 50m Olympic size pool, won his 100m freestyle heat in a record slow time of one minute, 52.72s. His time was 30 seconds slower than the winning time of Hungary’s Arnold Guttmann, the winner of the 100m freestyle final at the first modern Olympics in Athens in 1896.

It was also slower than Dutchman Pieter van den Hoogenband’s 200m freestyle winning time of 1:45.35s.

Moussambani was lucky. With two of his fellow-competitors, Nigerian Karim Bare and Tajikstan’s Farkhod Oripov, disqualified for false starts, he just about managed to stay afloat and came through on top.

A FAKE CRASH?

After winning the 200m gold at the Sydney Olympics, Greek athlete Kosta Kenteris was a hero back home. He had a street, a stadium and a ship named after him and was the top candidate to light the Olympic Flame during the Opening Ceremony of the 2004 Athens Olympics.

Many had expected Kenteris and Katerina Thanou, who had won the women’s 100m silver behind American Marion Jones, to produce some golden moments at their home Olympics. But surprisingly, they vanished, missed their mandatory dope tests on the eve of the Games and ended up in a hospital under mysterious circumstances.

They claimed that they were involved in a motorcycle accident but everybody felt that it was staged to avoid dope tests. A week later, they withdrew from the Games. Even today, not many are sure what exactly happed to the two.

VALUABLE LESSONS

One look at its sports schools and the number of major international sports meets the country hosts, and you realise how much importance China gives to sports. Here is another detail that shows how the country goes all out to increase awareness of sports among its citizens.

Just before the 2008 Beijing Olympics, about 400 million young Chinese children in more than 500,000 schools were taking lessons on the Olympics. That was in keeping with one of the primary goals of the Olympic Movement: to educate young people through sports.

THE FIRST WOMAN AT THE OLYMPICS

While sport is a massive movement in China, for Saudi Arabia the 2012 London Olympics was a breakthrough year of sorts. That was the first time Saudi Arabia sent women to the Olympics. And Wojdan Shaherkani became the first Saudi Arabian woman to compete at the Games when she took part in the plus 78 kg judo competition.

“Hopefully, this is the beginning of a new era,” said the 16-year-old. “I was scared a lot, because of all the crowd.”