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 care with his brother Riba, after their parents returned to their country when he was four. Their uncle, who had been appointed as their guardian, neglected his duty, leaving the boys to be raised by abusive foster parents. 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 successful 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.
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 an over-the-top 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".
In 2012, Akabusi was in an Olympic-themed advert for Nature Valley cereal bars, had a cameo in a red button episode of EastEnders, and made a guest appearance on The Big Fat Quiz of The 80's with presenter Jimmy Carr.
In 2013, he appeared on an episode of A League of Their Own, initially for a short cameo. Akabusi fan Jack Whitehall insisted his childhood idol join the panel for the remainder of the show. Whitehall then did the same again when Akabusi filled in for Aston Merrygold on Never Mind The Buzzcocks later that year. Again in December 2013, Akabusi appeared on the Christmas special of Backchat as Santabusi, which Jack Whitehall presents with his father, Michael.
In 2014, he appeared in Channel 4's The Feeling Nuts Comedy Night to raise awareness of testicular cancer.
In 1992, Akabusi was appointed MBE by Queen Elizabeth II in recognition of his services to the country through athletics. Also that year, he was awarded an honorary degree from the University of Southampton along with fellow relay team member Roger Black.
Akabusi's former marriage was to Monika Akabusi; their marriage produced two daughters - Shakira and Ashanti. He also has a son, Alannam, and another daughter, Sakhile. He is a devout Christian and supports West Ham United.
In August 2014, Akabusi was one of 200 public figures who were signatories to a letter to The Guardian expressing their hope that Scotland would vote to remain part of the United Kingdom in September's referendum on that issue.
- 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.
- "No foster child should suffer the abuse I did". thesun.co.uk.
- "Meet Kriss Akabusi Footdown Member". footdown.com.
- "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.
- Speaker profile for Kriss Akabusi
- Cole Moreton (23 October 2011). "God wills them to win". The Independent.
- "Akabusi is a happy Hammer". thesun.co.uk.
- "Celebrities' open letter to Scotland – full text and list of signatories | Politics". theguardian.com. 2014-08-07. Retrieved 2014-08-26.
- Louise Giblin Arts. "Louise Giblin body cast sculptor". Louisegiblin.co.uk. Retrieved 2014-08-26.