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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 July, 2004, 15:48 GMT 16:48 UK
Britain's new sprint sensation
By Tom Fordyce

Get practising the pronunciation of Christine Ohuruogu's name (that's o-ho-roo-goo) and sharpish.

While the 20-year-old might not yet be a household name, it won't take long.

OHURU-WHO?
Christine Ohuruogu
Name: Christine Ohuruogu
Age: 20
Lives: East London
Pedigree: England netball international, 400m bronze at 2003 Euro Juniors
Job: Student of psychology and German

Ohuruogu is the previously unheard-of student who gate-crashed the British team for the Olympics by knocking an incredible three seconds off her personal best in the space of a few months.

On Sunday she won the 400m at the Olympic trials in spectacular fashion, running over a second faster than she had ever done before - with no idea at all of the implications of her shock win.

"When I was running round doing my lap of honour, which they made me do, I didn't know I was going to the Olympics," she says.

"It was only when Sally Gunnell told me my time (50.98secs) that I thought, hmm, that's quite fast.

"I hated the conditions. I was so cold. I'm still recovering now - I don't know whether it was a cold or 'flu, but I had headaches, a blocked nose and a sore throat, and I couldn't wait to get home.

"I hated everything about the race apart from the last 100m.

"I just thought it was awful. Maybe I'm being harsh, but I didn't stick to my race plan. There's loads of room for improvement."

Ohuruogu is not your usual athlete. A former junior netball international, she freely admits that athletics has meant very little to her for most of her life.

"I never actually followed athletics when I was younger - I used to find it so boring," she reveals.

"If it came on television, I would either change the channel or leave the room.

Christine Ohuruogu wins the Olympic Trials
Ohuruogu beats Lee McConnell at the Olympic Trials

"I always won at my school sports days in Romford, but I never did inter-schools championships.

"I always enjoyed running, but I didn't do much until the European Juniors last year where I won two bronzes.

"After that my coaches sat me down and said, 'You can't do both netball and athletics any more."

Even now, Ohuruogu is a part-timer. She is two years into a three-year psychology and German degree at University College, London, and was making plans to do a masters.

She trains just four times a week, says she finds weight training boring and receives only a tiny amount of National Lottery funding to cover her physio bills.

"I thought if I could scrape 54 seconds this season and just bring it down gradually that would be great. I never thought I would knock this much off.

"I always knew I could do well if I was chasing someone. It's a lot easier to run if you have a target ahead of you. But I definitely did not think I would finish first."

Sights set high

The reaction has been massive. At the news conference to announce the British team, journalists spurned big names like Steve Backley and Kelly Holmes to speak to Ohuruogu.

But she is determined to be more than just a flash in the pan.

"People make a lot of noise about going to Athens," she says.

"Obviously I'd be very happy just to make the final, because I didn't think I'd be going to the Olympics.

"But there's no point going to just compete half-heartedly.

"Being out there running is the best feeling ever. When you're coming down the home straight, the adrenaline carries you on.

"I want to make an impact."





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Spotlight on Britain
08 Jul 04  |  Olympics 2004


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