Kriss Akabusi MBE.
BMF Conference: Building Momentum
Published: 24 June, 2015
Legendary athlete Kriss Akabusi MBE left delegates at the BMF All-Industry Conference in Malta on a high with a presentation full of humour, inspirational stories, and bags of energy and enthusiasm.
Drawing from his own experiences, he spoke of the importance of being a team player and stepping into the arena with passion, pride and a can-do attitude.
Mr Akabusi is famous for his achievements in athletics where his greatest individual triumph was winning a gold medal in the 1990 European Championships.
His international career began in 1983 as a member of the 4x400m relay squad where he will always be remembered for helping Great Britain clinch the gold medal and beat the Americans in the 1991 World Championships 4x400m relay in Tokyo, Japan.
Having left school with few qualifications and a report that read: “Akabusi would achieve a lot more if he just sat down, shut up and stop running around,” Mr Akabusi joined the British Army in 1975, where he had a successful career in the Royal Corps of Signals before switching to the Army Physical Training Corps (as it was then called). It was during his tenure in the military that his potential in sports was discovered.
“The past is for reference, not for residence,” Mr Akabusi told delegates. “You should take the best from the past, focus on where you are going, and occasionally look back at where you have been.”
A successful partnership
Mr Akabusi took the audience on a journey of how he met Roger Black in 1984, when he’d just come back from his first Olympic Games in Los Angeles (LA). “I moved to Southampton to train under Mike Smith, who also coached Todd Bennett, who had been out in LA at the same time as me,” he said. “One day a new lad appeared - a well spoken, middle-class youth. I remember watching the incredible ease with which Roger bounded over hurdles, and thinking: "Wow he's strong."
“By January 1985 it was clear that we had a talent here and pretty soon Roger was promoted to our training group.”
While growing up, Mr Akabusi told the audience how he would never have surrounded himself with someone like Mr Black as he was opposite to him, but as a result of sharing crucial times with Mr Black, he grew to cherish him. “Meeting different people and understanding how you can work with them to raise your game enables you to extend your sphere,” he said.
Two other people who joined forces with Mr Akabusi and Mr Black, and who also “raised the bar” in athletics was John Regis and “captain courageous” Derek Redmond. At the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Mr Redmond tore his hamstring in the 400m sprint semi-final, but continued the race limping and, with assistance from his father, managed to complete a full lap of the track as the crowd gave him a standing ovation. “Sometimes in life you just need support to help you get through the bad times,” said Mr Akabusi.
With Mr Black, Mr Regis and Mr Redmond part of Mr Akabusi’s “greatest experience of teamwork,” Mr Akabusi concluded his presentation by telling the audience how Great Britain came together to win gold in the 4x400m relay at the 1991 World Championships in Tokyo, Japan.
He told the audience: “Prior to the race, the USA team were extremely confident that they would win with ease, as they hadn't lost a major championship in over seven years. However, we knew that as a team we had the resources to win and succeed, but that we had to change our configuration to do so. As a result, we made a tactical change to our team just before the race, and decided to switch Roger, who was usually the anchor leg runner, to the first leg. The move paid off, and I was able to run the anchor leg, overtaking Antonio Pettigrew on the home straight to win.”
Mr Akabusi concluded: “Prior to the start of the race when we went out on the track, we realised that we wasn’t just running for team Great Britain, we was running for each other. We dreamt of winning gold and had a strategy of how we were going to achieve our goal. We had the drive and determination to succeed and ultimately believed in each other’s ability.”