Sandilya Venkatesh caught up with legendary marathon runner, Linford Christie in New Delhi and he can’t stop smiling.
Linford Christie is as large a man in person as his name is in the world of athletics. When he walks into the room he casts a shadow befitting his 6ft 2 inch frame which even at 57 years is in excellent shape. I found a fitting definition to describe why he is a considered legend on Wikipedia
“He is the only British man to have won gold medals in the 100 metres at all four major competitions open to British athletes: the Olympic Games, the World Championships, the European Championships and the Commonwealth Games.“
I got a chance to catch up with him at a small dinner organised on the sidelines of the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon 2017 which he attended as the PUMA Legends Brand ambassador. The first thing I spoke to him about was his disqualification in 1996 at the Atlanta Olympics, where he was a favourite to win and was to be his swan song. I did regret leading with that statement of course, but the incredibly composed Christie fielded it with a beaming grin and poise. He did regret that he could not run that race, but chalked it up to the travails of the job – “That’s the sport – it happens sometimes” he said with such comfort and ease that one would think that it didn’t matter.
Training to be Christie
Fortunately, I moved on to his training and nutrition. With 3 – 6 hours of training every day, his routine was a grueling schedule. So much so that he would want to give up the sport every time he completed a meet. But like all good sportsmen, he would get back to the sport to continue the good work or I wondered aloud if he was a masochist? He laughs it off with equal ease. Interestingly, his nutrition was not anything much different during training as it was off. He doesn’t touch alcohol as expected. But he also doesn’t touch red meat and actively dislikes beef steaks. His primary protein sources are chicken and fish.
He continues to be built like a body builder – in his active years he was considered one of the most muscular sprinters and an example of a power athlete. Even though he was in full sleeved shirts or sweat shirts through out the weekend, his biceps were clearly visible and the size of shot puts. To the question on current fitness and exercise routine, he talked about how he is completely injury and pain free and continues to lift weights like people half his age in the the gym. That wasn’t surprising at all!
The legend now
For now, he enjoys contributing to the sport in the form of coaching and training. When asked about the nature of the sport and how it has changed, he talked about how everything has become so scientific these days and how that has unfortunately led to a lack of longevity of athletes. Usain Bolt however was the exception but also someone who, because of his sheer dominance of the sport, simply suppressed everyone else. Even though sprinters like Asafa Powell, Tyson Gay or Justin Gatlin were all outstanding athletes, they were unable to shine due to Usain’s undisputed presence, he opined.
He now spends a lot of time with “Street Athletics“, a sports initiative to get under privileged children into sport. For someone who has achieved such great heights in his sport, he is incredibly humble and down to earth. Talking to him, gives you a sense that you could win the Olympic gold too – if that’s not inspiring, then what is?
If you want to read more about Christie’s achievements you can visit https://goo.gl/GJcKK2