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Christine Ohuruogu: Great Britain's 400-Meter Ace

A profile of 400-meter sprinter Christine Ohuruogu's track and field career.

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Christine Ohuruogu celebrates her World Championship victory in 2013.

Julian Finney/Getty Images

It seems that Christine Ohuruogu was destined to be an Olympian. One of eight children born to Nigerian parents, Ohuruogu grew up less than 1 mile from the site of the London Olympic stadium in which she’d eventually compete. Her early athletic loves included netball – an offshoot of basketball – but she eventually found her true calling on the track as one of the world’s top 400-meter runners.

Early Success

The arc of Ohuruogu’s early career moved steadily upward after she made her first mark in international competition. In 2003, the 19-year-old Ohuruogu placed third in the 400 meters at the European Junior Championships. She qualified for the Athens Olympics the following year and reached the semifinals of the 400 and ran on Great Britain’s fourth-place 4 x 400-meter relay team.

Ohuruogu gained a pair of silver medals, in the 400 and the 4 x 400 relay, at the 2005 European Under-23 Championships. Running in the same two events the senior World Championships in Helsinki, Ohuruogu reached the 400-meter semis then earned a bronze medal in the relay. Her early career reached its peak when she ran a then-personal best 50.28 seconds to win the 400 meters at the 2006 Commonwealth Games. She appeared to earn a second gold medal after anchoring the victorious English team in the 4 x 400 relay. But the squad was disqualified because two team members ran in the wrong order.

Suspension

Ohuruogu committed a technical violation of IAAF doping rules by missing random drug tests in 2005 and 2006. Under rules in place at the time, athletes had to provide a testing agency a location and a one-hour window during which they’d available for testing, on five days each week. On three occasions she wasn’t where she said she’d be when testers arrived. As a result, Ohuruogu was suspended from competition for one year. It appears her violations were due to negligence, rather than attempts to avoid the tests, as she passed a test nine days before the first violation and three days after the last one. Nevertheless, the British Olympic Association gave her a lifetime ban from representing Great Britain in the Olympics. Ohuruogu went through two appeals before the lifetime ban was lifted, in late 2007. Ohuruogu initially considered quitting track and field, but instead returned with a new habit of writing down responsibilities in a notebook – presumably, notifying testing authorities of her whereabouts is among the reminders she jots down.

World Championship Success and Disappointment

Ohuruogu’s suspension ended less than a month before the 2007 World Championships in Osaka, but she was still selected for the British team. Ohuruogu won her heat and her semifinal (in a personal best 50.16) then won a tight final with another personal best time of 49.61. She also earned a 4 x 400 bronze medal with her British team.

Ohuruogu suffered through two disappointing World Championships in 2009 and 2011. She was hampered by a hamstring injury in 2009 and could only manage a fifth-place finish in the 400. She suffered an injury-plagued 2010 and then, in the first year of the IAAF’s single-elimination false start rule, Ohuruogu false-started in her heat and was disqualified at the 2011 World Championships.

Ohuruogu was healthy and more careful at the starting line at 2013 Championships. She won her heat and semifinal, but trailed Amantle Montsho for most of the final. A late kick drew her even and she beat Montsho at the line by four-thousands of a second. Ohuruogu’s time of 49.41 established a personal best and a national record. She capped off the competition with another 4 x 400 relay bronze medal.

One year earlier, Ohuruogu, won a World Indoor Championship gold medal in the 4 x 400 relay.

Olympic Glory

Ohuruogu began her second Olympics in 2008 by winning her initial heat, then taking the semifinal. She ran behind pre-race favorite Sanya Richards-Ross for much of the final, but Richard-Ross faded down the stretch while Ohuruogu posted a world-leading 49.62 to earn the gold medal.

Ohuruogu performed well in the 2012 Olympics and might’ve been satisfied with the results, had she not been running before her home crowd in London. She was second in her heat – by .02 to Francena McCorory – and then was second to Richards-Ross in both the semifinal (by .15) and the final (again by .15), finishing in 49.70 and settling for a silver medal.

Stats

  • Height: 5 feet, 9 inches
  • Weight: 150 pounds
  • Birth date: May 17, 1984
  • Hometown: London, UK
  • Personal best: 49.41 (400 meters); 22.85 (200)

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