Q&A: Linford Christie on his time with London Irish Athletics Club

Q&A: Linford Christie on his time with London Irish Athletics Club

LAST WEEK, we brought you the tale of London Irish Athletics Club, who developed elite athletes such as Linford Christie, who won a gold medal in the men’s 100 metre final in Barcelona, 1992.

London Irish was Christie’s first ever club having joined as a 17-year-old, and we dived deeper into his memory cells to learn more about his recollections from around 1978 to 1981.

Are there any particular memories that stand out for you during your time with the club?

“I really quite enjoyed working with the people at the club, like Pat McCarthy and PJ Fagan. Because it was an Irish club, they of course had a lot of Irish there, and I remember that they seemed to have a lot of good distance runners, mostly. The friends of mine who had joined were mainly sprinters. At that time, they were based at the West London Stadium, and the only other club there at that time was the Thames Valley Harriers, who I went on to join. Thames Valley was more established club and had some of the bigger international sprinters.”

Any former LIAC member we’ve spoken to has at least one funny anecdote, what’s yours?

“Well, because Christie is an Irish name, people who seen my name listed used to automatically assume my name was actually Christie Linford! I remember going to a club championship once with the relay team and the four sprinters representing London Irish, including myself, were all black. On the PA system they called out London Irish, everybody started cheering, and out walked four young black men; and I can still remember the look of amazement on the crowd!”

Is there any LIAC athlete you remember who stood out for you but never quite made it?

“There was a guy called Paul Stapleton who was pretty quick, but I think his main love was rugby, to be honest, and he may have went on to play for England schoolboys, if my memory serves me right. But I remember thinking he could have gone all the way as a sprinter.”

Linford Christie Stadium (Picture Hammersmith and Fulham Council)

How did your transfer from LIAC to Thames Valley go?

“I think I sort of just outgrew London Irish, but only because we wanted tougher competition at the time. We were just way faster than the league London Irish were in, so the progression to Thames Valley was just natural. Most of the members who were with London Irish went on to join Thames Valley, even some of the management team came across too. I think in the end they specialised in long distance as all the sprinters ended up at the Harriers.”

Does it sadden you that London Irish AC is no more?

“It’s a real shame, yes. My time at London Irish was very memorable. PJ Fagan was a builder, he’s passed now, but even when I drive around London now I can see builders’ vans with that name on it and I do wonder if it’s that’s his company run by his sons.”

You and Ade Mafe both ran together for Great Britain, but did you ever cross paths at London Irish?

“No, but he was a phenomenal athlete; made the 200 metre final at 17, amazing. I knew he ran for London Irish but not in my time. Whilst running for the cub we were told that we were eligible to compete in the Irish championships, which would have been one for the books!”

Just finally Linford, does the number of professionals now competing at the Games concern you?

“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to go to the Olympics – they need to keep it for the amateurs. They’re trying to get the crowds in, but the crowds will still go and watch the Olympics no matter what. Pros don’t need the Olympic Games, and they certainly don’t need to be beaten by amateurs, which could well happen. I mean, golf in the Olympics…really? The Olympics should be the pinnacle of your career, it’s not for them, nor tennis players, who would rather win Wimbledon.”