A History of British Sprinting: Christie and Wells

By Nathan Ritchie (@nritchie16)  Comments
Updated: July 14, 2014
Linford Christie

Linford Christie

Although Americans, Jamaicans and Canadians have generally dominated the sprinting game through history, there have been countries which have challenged this pattern throughout the years of modern competitive sprinting.

The United Kingdom is one of the few countries that have managed to make an impact in the world of sprinting.

This article will look at two men who preceded the likes of Adam Gemili and James Dasaolu and made their mark on the scene of world sprinting.

Linford Christie 

Undoubtedly this man is the greatest British sprinter of all time.

The Golden Years 1983-1989

Christie’s career started poorly after failing to qualify for the 1984 Olympics, a change of coach and style changed his fortunes.

This led to a shocking European Championships gold medal and a Commonwealth games silver medal in 1986.

His misfortune of being a 100m runner in the same era as Carl Lewis and steroid abuser Ben Johnson meant that Christie had to settle for silver and bronzes throughout his early career.

1988 Olympic Games 100m Finals

1988 Olympic Games 100m Finals

The most famous of races during this time was the Tokyo 1988 100m final when Ben Johnson was later banned for steroid abuse and Christie was promoted to silver medal.

Best Sprinter in the World 1990-1994

After Ben Johnson was banned from athletics and Carl Lewis became more inconsistent, Christie began his domination on the sprinting scene. This period galvanised Christie in the consciousness of the British people to where now he is a household name throughout the nation.

Christie won the Commonwealth Games in Auckland in 1990 and again in 1994 in Victoria, he also won European Championships in 1990 in Split and again in 1994 in Helsinki, the World Championships were his 1993 in Stuttgart.

However the defining moment of Christie’s career came in 1992 in Barcelona where he won the Olympic gold medal in 1992.

The Dark Years 1995-1999

Christie’s career peaked in 1994 and the following years were mired with accusations of drug use and poor performances on the track. He was famously disqualified from the 100m final in Atalanta 1996 after false starting.

He retired from International athletics in 1997 and carried on sprinting in invitational meetings, during this time he tested positive for Nandrolone and was subsequently banned from the sport in 1999.

This has called into question the legitimacy of his career which has led to Christie often being forgotten, whilst the likes of Seb Coe are still in the public eye.

Allan Wells 

Allan Wells beating Pietro Mennea at Crystal Palace in 1983

Allan Wells beating Pietro Mennea at Crystal Palace in 1983

The last white man to win the 100m final.

The Long Jumper 1973-1976

This great British sprinter was originally trained in long jump and triple jump. The Scotsman won many national championships and was known for his blistering run up pace which led him to decide to focus on a career as a sprinter.

The Glory years 1977-1982

Allan Well’s career as a sprinter took off very quickly, he was soon winning championships and adding to a growing medal collection. He won four Commonwealth Gold medals in 1978 and 1982, a World Cup gold medal in 1981 and three European Cup gold medals in 1979, 1981 and 1983.

His most notable gold medal came in the 1980 Moscow olympics, although the USA boycotted the Olympics that year which led to Carl Lewis being unavailable, this achievement will always go down in history and was the last time a white man won the 100m.

The later years 1983-1987

Well’s career started to wind down after 1982 where a new breed of sprinter took centre stage. His career started to become riddled with injury and mediocre performances like the Los Angeles 1984 Olympics saw Well’s struggle to revamp the glory days of 1980. Well’s legacy is that of an honest sprinter who had little controversy throughout his career.

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