Cautious he is, but relaxed through the rough and tumble. In the Capital to promote Airtel Delhi Half Marathon, Christie did not hold back during an exclusive interaction with TOI on Friday, saying 100m champions are a special breed. “Must they have something to do with Jamaica? Well, I really am not sure,” he said.
Christie followed up his oneliners with that typical Caribbean laughter that years of British cold shouldering has failed to stifle.
Running was a part of life for kids in Jamaica. “My grandma spit on the floor and asked to get stuff from the neighbourhood shop before the floor dried up. I had to run.” Moving out of Jamica when he was seven, Christie got serious about sprints when he was 19. A little late, isn’t it? “No. It happened just in time. Even for (Usain) Bolt it was the right time because he didn’t have to race me…”
Every time I beat Carl Lewis, I enjoyed it. I derived more Pleasure Beating Lewis than anything else. But I did realise that it was not a two-man race. It was different in those days. There were many possible winners. Now it is just between one or two people.
For the late-bloomer, 1986 was the tipping point. ” I think winning 200m in the European Indoor championships that year broke the ceiling for me. It gave me a lot of confidence. Athletics, I feel, is a lot to do with progression. The bigger the title you win, the more confident you become.” He was 26. Two years later, Seoul Olympics and Ben Johnson happened. Christie ended up with a 100m silver after the Canadian winner tested positive.
Four years later, Christie won the gold in Barcelona. “I don’t really relive those moments because it is easy sometimes to be caught up in your own hype. I always tell them, I knew I would win. After the first two rounds, I knew how I felt and what shape I was in and what shape my opponents were in. Of all the people in the race, I was the most experienced. And I think that counts a lot. Leroy Burrel was very nervous. He had a false start too. Others too were very nervous. It’s basically about focusing and concentrating. I have always maintained that I was never the fastest. I just made them believe I was. Once you do that, half the job is done. If you look at time-wise, I never went into the race as the fastest. Lot of people ran for the times. I just ran for the win.”
Still, Christie considers his contest with Carl Lewis in the Stuttgart world championships next year as the best. “I was running my fastest and it was my toughest race. Everytime I beat Carl Lewis, I enjoyed it. I derived more pleasure beating Lewis than anything else. But I did realise that it was not a two-man race. It was different in those days. There were many possible winners. Now it is just between one or two people.”
Of course, he was initiating the conversation towards Usain Bolt. “In every Sport, in the nicest sense of the word, there is a freak. Micheal Jordan was a freak in basketball, Michael Johnson was a freak in 200m and 400m and when Carl Lewis came, he was a freak. So was Bolt. He was very good for the sport. But the sport itself did an injustice when it said that Usain Bolt and Mo Farah are the greatest in the sport. They didn’t realise that Bolt and Farah will retire one day. What will the public say? Why will we watch the sport when the greatest are not participating any more? Now it’s time for the sport to reinvent itself.”
Well that job somewhat rests with Sebastian Coe, his senior and compatriot and the current head of the International Amateur Athletics Federation, and Christie feels only a sportsperson should look after the running of sports bodies. “An ex-sportsperson is better equipped to look after the sport. If you want to build a house, you need a builder. You don’t call a gardner because it’s never going to be right. Whether Coe is the best for the job, well you have to give him time. He is there for a little while now. You got to give him the chance to make his mark.”
So who does Christie think made the biggest mark in sports? “Muhammad Ali. He made a massive statement. He got involved in the political side of things. Ali stood up for what he felt right. And he showed us you don’t have to take things lying down. And you have to respect that he refused to go to the Vietnam War because he said he had no problems with them. He showed that instead of walking blindly into doing things, sometimes you have to step back and take a stand for the greater good. You have to look at the bigger picture. They put Ali in prison.” Christie regrets that in this day and age, there is no Muhammad Ali.
And what about the hard blows he had copped? “I’m still standing,” hummed Christie. “You know the Elton John number, my favourite. That’s my life, summed up.”
Source : timesofindia