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Kriss Akabusi, Hyde Park London, March 2012
|Full name||Kezie Uchechukwu Duru Akabusi|
28 November 1958 |
|Height||1.85 m (6 ft 1 in)|
|Weight||81 kg (179 lb)|
|Sport||Track and field|
His first international successes were with the British 4×400 metres relay team, winning a silver medal at the 1984 Summer Olympics, golds at the 1986 Commonwealth Games and 1986 European Athletics Championships, and another silver at the 1987 World Championships in Athletics. He progressed individually in 400 metres hurdles from the late 1980s onwards, taking bronze at the 1989 IAAF World Cup. His time of 47.93 seconds to win the 1990 European Athletics Championships was a British record, and he also won gold at the 1990 Commonwealth Games.
He reached the peak of his career over the next two years, winning a hurdles bronze medal at the 1991 World Championships and anchoring the British team to a narrow victory over the American team in 2:57.53 minutes – a British record for the 4 × 400 m relay. He followed this with a British 400 m hurdles record of 47.82 seconds to take the bronze medal at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, where he also won bronze with the 4×400 m relay team. Since retiring from athletics, he has worked as a television presenter and motivational speaker.
Born in Paddington to Nigerian parents who were studying in London, Akabusi would later be brought up in foster care with his brother Riba, after their parents returned to their country when he was four. Due to the outbreak of the Nigerian Civil War in 1967, Akabusi was unable to stay in contact with his parents, although he would later be reunited with his mother in his teens. She was determined that her son should settle in Nigeria, but while Akabusi was keen to make up for lost time with the rest of his family, he remained in the United Kingdom, eventually visiting the African nation when he was twenty-one.
It was during this time that Akabusi, who is of Igbo heritage, changed his first name from 'Kezie' to 'Kriss'. He told an interviewer in 2002: "I decided to make a new start and part of that new start was to have a new name. I spelt my name with a 'K' because I didn't want to change my initials and I want to have some connections with my past. Kezie Akabusi was the connection to my past, but Kriss Akabusi is a connection with my future."
Akabusi joined the British Army in 1975, having a career in the Royal Corps of Signals before switching to the Army Physical Training Corps (as it was then called) in 1981. In 1990, when he was discharged into the reserves at the end of his army career he held the rank of Warrant Officer Class 2. It was during his tenure in the military that his potential in sports was discovered.
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In 1983, Akabusi embarked upon an athletics career, initially specialising in the 400 metres, before switching to the 400 metres hurdles in 1987. As a member of the British 4 × 400 m relay team, Akabusi won a silver medal at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.
In 1990, Akabusi broke David Hemery's longstanding British 400 m hurdles record of 48.12 seconds on his way to a gold medal at the European Championships, with a time of 47.93 seconds. He also won the 400 m hurdles gold medal at that year's Commonwealth Games.
At the 1991 World Championships in Tokyo, Akabusi won the bronze medal in the 400 m hurdles, but would later become the surprise winner of the 4 x 400 relay team alongside Roger Black, Derek Redmond and John Regis, with Akabusi as anchor leg. At the start of the final lap, he took the baton in second place behind the American team, but eventually overtook American runner Antonio Pettigrew (who had won the 400 m individual event) on the final straight and crossed the line in first place to win the gold medal for Britain in a time of 2:57.53, a new British record.
At the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona Akabusi won the bronze medal in the 400 m hurdles, lowering his British record to 47.82 seconds, a time which still stands. This was the same race in which Kevin Young set the world record, which also still stands. He also won a bronze in the 4 × 400 m relay.
Following his retirement from sports, Akabusi became a television presenter, working on several shows including Record Breakers (joining after the death of long-serving presenter Roy Castle in 1994) and The Big Breakfast, and regularly appeared as a panelist on many quiz shows such as A Question of Sport, They Think It's All Over and Through the Keyhole. Through these appearances he became well known for having a distinctive roaring laugh, which was spoofed in an episode of The Vicar of Dibley when Owen Newitt proposes to the vicar saying, "If you accept, I'll be the happiest man in the world apart from Kriss Akabusi." In 1997 he appeared as a milkman on Last of the Summer Wine in the episode "There Goes the Groom".
Other appearances include: Come Dine With Me in 2011; in an Olympic-themed advert for Nature Valley cereal bars in 2012; a cameo in a red button episode of EastEnders; The Big Fat Quiz of The 80's; A League of Their Own; Never Mind The Buzzcocks; Backchat. He also took part in Channel 4's The Feeling Nuts Comedy Night to raise awareness of testicular cancer.
In 1991 it was announced that he would be appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II in recognition of his services to the country through athletics. In 1992 he was awarded an honorary degree from the University of Southampton.
- Summer Olympics: Barcelona, Spain.
- 400 m. hurdles bronze medal
- 4 × 400 m. relay bronze medal
- Summer Olympics: Barcelona, Spain.
- "News -- Kriss Akabusi: The extraordinary story of a great performer". nigeriaworld.com.
- "Athlete Kriss Akabusi: Help teenagers leaving care". BBC News.
- "Meet Kriss Akabusi Footdown Member". footdown.com. Archived from the original on 14 July 2012.
- "Kriss Akabusi: overcoming his own hurdles - British Heart Foundation". bhf.org.uk.
- "On Demand". Channel 4.
- Jim Shelley. "Jim Shelley on best and worst of Olympics ads - Jim Shelley - Mirror Online". mirror.
- "Theatre, dance, opera and cabaret reviews - The Stage". The Stage.
- "BBC One - EastEnders, Billy's Olympic Nightmare". BBC.
- "No. 52563". The London Gazette (Supplement). 14 June 1991. pp. 1–28.
- Louise Giblin Arts. "Louise Giblin body cast sculptor". Louisegiblin.co.uk. Retrieved 2014-08-26.