Lightening the tone a tad from this week’s Donal MacIntyre encounter, today we say “hello” to the Paralympics with a chat with Britain’s greatest ever sprinter, now coach and Des O’Connor-beating family man, Linford Christie.
But first, a word from his sponsor: “Linford was commissioned by Currys and PC World to create an exercise training video for store colleagues motivating them through a summer of epic sporting events and therefore strong TV, tablet and laptop sales. www.currys.co.uk / www.pcworld.co.uk”.
This kind of renders our first question redundant, so you may want to move straight on to the tech stuff.
T3: First and most essential question, what are you plugging?
Linford Christie: I’m in PC World, you know, in Currys, they brought me in to try and raise the fitness level of their staff so they can be prepared for all the TVs they’re going to be selling during the games and everything else, you know they’ve got to lift big fridges up and stuff, you know, they’ve got to be strong.
T3: Have you been working on their speed? Upper body strength?
LC: Both: speed, upper body strength, leg strength as well because they’ve got to pick up 60 inch TV’s, you know.
T3: Obviously you’re retired from running, do you still work out all the time?
LC: No, not at all, I don’t work out as much but I do work out three days a week, maybe sometimes 4 at the moment during the season… I’ll do the long runs with the guys, I do all the weight sessions so I’ve been doing maybe six days a week.
T3: So just six days out of seven. Do you still run competitively at all?
LC: No not at all, no that’s all done and dusted, you’ve got to know when to quit.
T3: Do you have kids? Have you ever turned up at the school sports day? And do they have a parent’s race at the sports day? Have you ever thought of doing that?
LC: I have, but just for fun. I’ve actually raced Des O’Connor. His son went to the same school as mine.
T3:Well we hear he power walks a lot. Surely the other parents seeing Linford Christie lining up for a sports day parents’ race must be like some kind of nightmare scenario?
LC: Well I don’t really do it to be honest. I take part in maybe a football game, maybe 5-a-side or doing obstacle stuff but yeah to go there and do the 100 meters, it would be totally unfair! Even though I’m much older than 90% of them.
T3: You totally should do it. Are you into tech?
LC: I’m trying to be! I’ve got to keep up with my kids. I do the apple thing, you know, you’ve just got to do otherwise I can’t help the kids with their homework or do anything.
T3: There’s a lot of tech in sprinting, even though it boils down to running fast…
LC: Aw definitely, It is very technical, I mean even the tracks they run on, they’ve got the surface set up and they’ll make sure the fibres are going one way – it’s faster if you run the longer way than if you run the other way.
T3: So if you run left to right, a top athlete would actually go faster than right to left on a track?
LC: Exactly, some tracks are a bit harder than others which means you’re going to get your speed down a bit; some are soft so the distance runners could benefit, there’s just so many things! I mean they can make tracks faster, but back in 1991 they made a track in Tokyo which they’ve since banned because they said it was too fast!
T3: Is there a track in the world which is seen as being the fastest then? Somewhere where if you’re looking to break a record, that’s the one that you would head for?
LC: No not really, I mean Berlin is where Bolt broke his world record, so I think you’d want to go back to Berlin and try one of those tracks…
T3: Obviously the Paralympics has just started, but in the Olympics we had Oscar Pistorious, a 400m runner who uses, if you will, “enhanced” legs. Could you see in the future that sort of bionic enhancement of athletes being something we’ll see more of?
LC: Well, I mean, of course as the technology grows people will move with that, and that’s the way it’s going to go, it doesn’t mean everyone will have the same technology, like racing cars, you can tweak yours and do this and that, and eventually they’re going to have to limit, put some restrictions on how advanced the tuning of your legs can be. I could see it going that way.
T3: You could see in, say, 100 years time a race of bionic men lined up against each other, almost a race between different countries’ technology as much their athletes?
LC: Yeah definitely, I mean it’d be like Robot Wars, it’d be like Real Steel where they’ve got the robots that they fight mechanically. That’d be good. I think the Olympic ideal has changed,:it used to be not the winning but the taking part, now it’s all about the winning.