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Kriss Akabusi Talks Rio 2016 and How to Retire From Professional Sport

Kriss Akabusi Talks Rio 2016 and How to Retire From Professional Sport

We caught up with Kriss Akabusi MBE, retired British sprint and hurdling champion, to see what he thought about Rio 2016 so far, hear his comments on competition between athletes and get his best advice for Olympians retiring from professional sport after the 2016 games.  

Q: What is it like in the Olympic village? Is there a lot of competition, or is that all saved for the stadium? 

There isn't really competition in the Olympic Village although sometimes when you go to train at the Olympic training venue, the very fact that your competitors are there does give you an uplift. This makes it very easy to over-train, work too hard and pop a hamstring. Some inexperienced athletes do get injured under such conditions.

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Q: How do you think team GB are doing in Rio 2016, have you got any predictions for who is set to win a medal? 

It would be foolish to make predictions at the Olympics as it is the meeting of champions from all over the world. Team GB are currently doing very well but there are still lots of events to come. I much prefer to watch the unfolding of the games and marvel at performances as they happen. I think the constant obsession with medal tables spoils the games and has an unintended consequence of increasing the pressure, as it can make people cheat or underperform.

Q: What was it like competing in a solo event yet also being part of a team event at the Olympics; how did the hurdles/sprinting compare to the relay and how did the relay team motivate each other? 

I loved the fact that I had both an individual event and a team event. It meant that you could do your best as an individual, but I always knew that I had a backup event, with the support of very good friends. I always had more confidence when performing as a team member because I knew success was not just down to me, and I strongly believed in the athletes I was competing with. Inevitably, this meant I would give my best, as I definitely didn't want to be the one that let the team down! 

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Q: How did you cope with life after retiring from professional sport and what advice can you give to other athletes who will be hanging up their spikes after Rio 2016? 

The most important thing I believe is for the athlete to decide ahead of the games that this is their last Olympics, and that they will retire. Then they need to tell other people so they can be held to account for their decision. This then allows the athlete a good lead in time to leverage contacts for the new dispensation ahead, which, if done properly allows for a smoother transition. I found it relatively straight forward as I had decided after the World Championships in 1991 that the Olympics in '92 would be the last major competition for me. So I could use '93 to say goodbye and also hello. I was able to make good contacts in the TV world and ended up gaining presenting roles with Record Breakers and Big Breakfast. I also then developed opportunities to speak at school events, which eventually lead to my full-time professional corporate speaking career.

Q: What or who has been the greatest influence in your life? 

Jesus the Nazarene, abandonment from my mother at age four, my first mentor Sgt MacKenzie who got me into athletics, the love of my wife when I was a young man, and the decision to be a present father in the lives of my children, these have all been very important miles stones in my life.

Thank you Kriss, it is always great to get an insight into the inner workings of an Olympic champion team, I'm also sure many athletes will be taking your advice after Rio 2016. 

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