Christine Ohuruogu: From her lowest low to her highest high

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Multiple World and Olympic medallist Christine Ohuruogu. Photo: Arian Zwegers via Flickr

Throughout her illustrious career, Olympic and multiple world gold medallist Christine Ohuruogu had her fair share of triumphs and setbacks.

However, in the space of just two years between 2006 to 2008, the British 400m legend went from her lowest point ever, to her highest height ever, as she clinched Olympic gold at Beijing in 2008 when not too long ago her career seemed to be stuck in a rut.

Now, over ten years later, the recently retired 34-year-old can look back on the gold as the most iconic moment in her career and one that represented the ultimate triumph following a tough period.

When the 2006 track season came to a close, Ohuruogu was looking like the real deal, coming off the back of an impressive Commonwealth Games title despite being only 21 years old.

However, it would quickly come crashing down in August that year when three missed drugs tests between 2005 and 2006 culminated in a one year ban from competing, which was soon followed by a lifetime ban from the Olympics.

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It was such a blow at the time that some reports said the then-22-year-old’s career seemed “destroyed beyond repair” in having to take a year out at a critical time.

The red-hot Commonwealth champion was now unable to even step onto a track, had no access to funding and was also placed under considerable media scrutiny where she was “called names that no parent would want their kid to be called.”

It was a lot to take in at once, leaving the young British athlete devastated and demoralised. But in spite of it all, the only thing she could do was bury her frustrations away and instead do everything she could to keep her dreams alive and come back stronger.

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With no competitions to take part in, the goal for Ohuruogu now was just to stay fit. Keep the focus and determination strong as well as keeping up her appeal against the ban.

But despite the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) who imposed her ban also saying that she had no “intention of infringing on doping rights”, her first appeal in April was still unsuccessful.

The task therefore remained to ride out her ban and keep an eye on Osaka and the World Championships in August, where she would aim to defy the odds and bag a first ever global title.

Naturally, Ohuruogu went there as the underdog. With only a handful on races under her belt, nobody expected her to be race-fit enough to do what no other British woman in history had ever done and win a world 400m gold.

And even though she still got to the final, gold still seemed a stretch too far for her even during the race, as she trailed in fourth with only 50m left.

But with one final surge towards the line, Ohuruogu, along with British team-mate Nicola Sanders, edged just ahead of the tiring Jamaican Novlene Williams to mark an “astonishing return” to competition with her first ever world title.

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And more highs were very soon to follow for the new world champion when in November her ban from competing in the Olympics was officially lifted.

In the space of just one year, Ohuruogu was back where she wanted to be. Free to race and win gold whenever and wherever she wanted.

The Olympic dream was well and truly on. But despite now being free from all the bans and scrutiny, Ohuruogu still went to the Beijing Olympics as an underdog.

Going into the competition, the reigning world champion was surprisingly ranked nineteenth in the world.

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But with everything now at stake on the biggest stage of them all, Ohuruogu would well and truly turn on the style.

She safely advanced through the heats to take her place in the final where she came up against another Jamaican, Shericka Williams, and the world number one Sanya Richards (now Richards-Ross).

But once again, neither of them could stop Ohuruogu in the home-straight.

With the world champion again lagging behind in fourth with 100m to go, another huge and powerful injection of pace saw her stride past the leader Richards and clinch Olympic gold in the fastest time in the world that year.

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Just like the year before, the new Olympic champion had saved her very best for the big occasion and banished the toughest period of her career with the greatest ever win of her career, cementing herself as an all-time British great.

Of course, there were many more highs and lows to come for the 24-year-old before she officially retired in June 2008.

However, the years between her ban from competing and her Olympic gold can always be remembered as being the most heartbreaking and the most triumphant moments of her hugely memorable time in the sport.

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First published on: 10 January, 2019 5:48 pm

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