Feature13 Aug 2013

Captain Christine takes second 400m crown


Christine Ohuruogu in the womens 400m Final at the IAAF World Athletics Championships Moscow 2013 (© Getty Images)

Christine Ohuruogu was named Great Britain team captain on the eve of the championships mainly because of the example she sets in peaking for big races.

Her capacity to never give in, never retreat, no matter how dire the circumstances, also got the the job.

It was those characteristics that also took her to a second World 400m title six years after her first and with it she consigned a 29-year-old British record to the history books with her winning time of 49.41.

In a pulsating final, the 2007 champion was only ever in front at the finishing line, willing her imposing physique past Botswana’s defending champion Amantle Montsho with a finishing dip that required all her remaining energy. 

Montsho remained upright and Ohuruogu’s lean secured a victory that seemed impossible, even 10 metres from the finish. The pair was given the same time; however the photo finish found 0.004 separating the duo – to provide the closest ever finish at the IAAF World Championships in an event longer than 100m – and Montsho was left to rue the final metre, admitting she hadn’t seen her coming.

Christine the conquistador

In her captain’s speech before the championships commenced, Ohuruogu asked her team-mates to concentrate on ‘burning ships’.

It was a reference to Spanish conquistador Hernando Cortez who landed on the shores of Mexico in 1519 with the objective of seizing great treasures horded by the Aztecs.

Undermanned, Cortes convinced his soldiers and sailors that it was all or nothing. He urged them to ‘Burn the Ships’ knowing that retreat would be easy if his men had the option.

Burn their own ships they did, and they went on to conquer the Aztecs, succeeding where others had been unsuccessful for six centuries.

“The idea was to just get the team members to really commit to the cause. I think being the team captain, I really put myself out there because it meant I had to heed my own words and really commit to what I came here to get, which was to get a national record,” explained Ohuruogu.

“You have to stick it though, it doesn’t matter how hard it is and I’m really happy I told them that because as a captain I was kind of putting myself out there so I really couldn’t afford to back track myself, I really had to keep on going.”

Dual world champion and now national record holder

In winning, Ohuruogu joins France’s Marie-Jose Perec and Australia’s Cathy Freeman with two 400m World titles. All three own Olympic gold medals as well, Perec owns two over one lap in fact and Ohuruogu also collected silver on home soil at the London 2012 Olympic Games behind the now injured Sanya Richards-Ross.

And now she owns the national record, having finally raced past 1984 Olympic bronze medallist Kathy Cook’s time of 49.43 set in Los Angeles, when Ohuruogu was just a couple of months old. 

The dual World champion admitted it was the record, as much as the win, that was in her sights.

“I think today was really special because I got the national record and it’s actually what I’ve really been working for all season. It’s been a passion of mine and my coaches to strive for the British record because I kind of have everything else,” she said.

Ohuruogu also becomes the first British woman to win two World titles, something not even Sally Gunnell, Paula Radcliffe or the currently injured Jessica Ennis can boast.

Like the only two British men to achieve the feat, Colin Jackson and Jonathan Edwards, all three claimed their crowns six years apart.

Moscow has been a happy hunting ground for British athletes so far, with Mo Farah opening the account in the Luzhniki Stadium with a 10,000m win on the opening day.

Of course, as the Lenin Stadium at the 1980 Olympic Games it was also the scene of triumphs to legendary British athletes Steve Ovett, Sebastian Coe, Allan Wells and Daley Thompson.

All would have been pleased to see the Great Britain captain prevail on Russian soil.

David Culbert for the IAAF 

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