Full Name: Kriss Kezie Uche Chukwu Duru-Akabusi.
Born: 1958 Paddington, London
Height: 1.85m, Weight 81kg.
Club(s): Southampton & Eastleigh, Team Solent
Coach(s): Mike Smith, Mike Whittingham.
In 1990, at the European Championships in Split, Kriss Akabusi, already established as one of the most popular members of the British team, broke a national record that had legendary status written all over it.
It had been almost 22 years since Britain’s David Hemery had won the 400m hurdles at the Olympic Games in Mexico in 48.12, a time which was a world record. But as Akabusi soared home to win European gold, the clocked stopped at 47.92, overtaking Hemery in the all-time domestic list, and sparking glorious scenes as he fell to his knees in delight. It was the start of a period of dramatic glory.
A Great British Servant
In 1975, Akabusi joined the army where he progressed to become a warrant officer PT instructor, leaving after 15 years of service. He had made his international debut in 1983 at the age of 24, a late starter after several years as a 48-second 400m standard runner in Army athletics.
Not quite making the very highest level at 400m, with a best time of 44.93 in 1988, and a fourth place at the 1986 Commonwealth Games, he turned to 400m hurdling in 1987, and reached world class level very rapidly. He was seventh at the 1987 Worlds and sixth at the 1988 Olympics before his glory in Split. But while he had established himself with that win in 1990, it was a year later at the World Championships in Tokyo where his performance is remembered even more.
If breaking Hemery’s record during a decade of competing at international level was his greatest individual moment, one race defined the determination Akabusi had in abundance. It was the final event of the World Championships in Tokyo in 1991, and the regular duel in the men’s 4 x 400m relay between Britain and the USA. Duel in the sense that it would be prove to be a great tussle but more often that not, America would triumph. On this evening, the tide would turn when a British team of Roger Black, Derek Redmond and John Regis combined to hand the baton Akabusi, who held off the USA's Antonio Pettigrew, running a last leg of 44.59, to win gold.
He had already become an invaluable member of 4 x 400m relay teams, with silver at the 1984 Olympics, and gold medals at the Europeans of 1986 and 1990, Commonwealth 1986, but here in Japan, an epic race saw Akabusi hang on brilliantly in the final 20m to lead Britain to a famous triumph. What an achievement, and in an interview afterwards, in between saying how he felt, he produced the chuckling, cackling, roaring laugh which now is his trademark; even today, everyone knows when Akabusi is in town.
At the end of that year, he was voted the British Sports Writers’ male sportsman of the year.
In Tokyo, Akabusi had improved his British record twice more, with 47.91 in his semi-final and 47.86 when he won individual bronze, a performance he repeated the following summer in Barcelona to make the Olympic podium in 47.82 in a final where American Kevin Young broke the world record with 46.72 and Jamaica’s Winthrop Graham, of Jamaica, finished second with 47.66.
Akabusi was awarded the MBE in 1991, he retired in 1993 and made a career out of being a television personality, and now very much motivational speaker, where he often works with great pal and Tokyo team mate Black. Akabusi presents his FIT4Business™ speech to Blue Chip and FTSE 100 companies.
1983: 1st 4x400m European Cup
1984: sf 400mh, 2nd 4x400m Olympics
1985: ht 400m European Indoors, 3rd 4x400m, European Cup
1986: 1st 4x400m Europeans; 4th 400m, 1st 4x400m,
1987: 7th 400mh, 2nd 4x400mh Worlds
1988: 6th 400mh, 5th 4x400m Olympics
1989: 1st 400mh & 400mh European Cup; 3rd 400mh, 4th 4x400m World Cup
1990: 1st 400mh & 4x400mh Europeans; 1st 400mh
1991: 3rd 400mh, 1st 4x400mh Worlds; 1st 400mh & 400mh European Cup;
1992: 3rd 400mh and 4x400m Olympics
1993: 4th 400mh, 1st 400mh European Cup;
UK Internationals: 31 (1983-93)
UK champion 400m 1984, 400mh 1987 (tie), 1990. Won AAA 400m 1988, 400mh 1992.
100m: 10.7 (1983), 200m: 21.22 (1991), 21.1 (1990); 300m: 32.59 (1991), 400m 44.93 (1988), 600m: 1:17.1 (1991), 800m 1:48.2 (1985), 110mh: 14.6 (1989)
Indoors: 400m 47.58 (1985)