Linford Christie was born in Saint Andrew, Jamaica and brought up by his grandmother until the age of seven when he followed his parents in emigrating to England. Educated at Henry Compton Secondary School in Fulham, West London, young Linford excelled at all sports but left school at the age of 16. Coached by Ron Roddan, Christie did not begin sprinting seriously until he was 19.
The South Korean Seoul Games of 1988 gave Christie his first opportunity to claim an Olympic title, but he came up against some tough opposition in the shape of America’s Carl Lewis and Ben Johnson of Canada. Johnson won the 100m event, only later to be stripped of his title and disqualified after testing positive for a banned anabolic steroid. Christie, who crossed the line third in a time of 9.97 was awarded the silver medal, while America’s Carl Lewis claimed his rightful gold. Britain’s top sprinter also ran in the men’s 4x100m relay team along with Michael McFarlane, John Regis and Elliot Bunney and picked up another silver after finishing the final second behind the Soviet Union.
Never too old
Coming out of the Barcelona 100m final starting blocks at the age of 32, Christie pulled away from a ‘who’s who’ of famous sprinting names to claim his first Olympic title in a time of 9.96. Christie’s gold made him the oldest Olympic 100m Champion by a good four years. He beat Frankie Fredericks of Namibia into second place and Dennis Mitchell of America into third. Christie was the only man to go under ten seconds in the final.
Jumping the gun
Atlanta four years later proved a dreadful let-down for Christie who was determined to defend his title. In a shock upset Christie was disqualified on the day of the final after two false starts.
One hundred thousand spectators in the stadium and millions across the globe missed the opportunity to see if Christie still had what it took to win Olympic gold four years short of his 40th birthday.