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Parallel Lives

Born in London in 1958 to Nigerian parents, Kriss was left in England at the age of 4 and put into care. His parents had been studying in London and wanted to return to Nigeria, to their newly independent country and be part of its exciting future. Kriss and his brother were to be educated in England and then return to Nigeria as doctors or lawyers. But the plan went awry. Nigeria fell into a bitter civil war, his parents lost everything and there was no money to send to England for their keep, and so the boys grew up in a series of care homes. Kriss recalls crying himself to sleep at night until the age of 12, longing for his mother to return. A less than average pupil at school, including on the sports field, he lacked direction at 16, so joined the army. With mental health issues in his family, a lack of identity, no sense of belonging, and without any inspiring role models, his future was at best uncertain.

Yet this man went on to become one of Britain’s most famous and adored athletes, thanks to his prowess on the track and in particular, three minutes in his life in 1991. He’s admired and loved for his effervescent personality, his louder than usual laugh, is a popular TV personality, has the letters MBE after his name and two student union bars named after him, one at Cambridge University!

He is best known for taking gold for Great Britain in the anchor leg of the British 4 x 400m relay at the 1991 World Championships in Tokyo. Winning the race propelled him into the limelight and made him a household name in Britain. In fact he’s earned a living for years talking about ‘that race’ and those infa- mous few minutes of his life in 1991.
Ask any Englishman who was alive in 1991 who Kriss is and he’ll likely relate the race to you blow by blow, and then flail his fist around in a pe- culiar twirling pump action, Kriss’ signature gesture after winning a race...

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