Christine Ohuruogu: Can Great North City Games Help Win Over British Crowd

Christopher AtkinsContributor IApril 5, 2017

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - AUGUST 12:  Gold medalist Christine Ohuruogu of Great Britain poses on the podium for Women's 400 metresduring Day Three of the 14th IAAF World Athletics Championships Moscow 2013 at Luzhniki Stadium on August 12, 2013 in Moscow, Russia.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Christine Ohuruogu is an Olympic and World Championship gold medallist in the 400 metres, a quite remarkable feat that ordinarily would see her lauded as one of the greatest athletes Britain has ever seen.

Yet, there is an indifference to Ohuruogu in the British psyche that stretches back to a year-long ban in 2006 for contravening anti-doping regulation. Ohuruogu missed three out-of-competition tests and, as such, was forced to sit on the sidelines for a 12-month period.

When she won brilliant gold medals at the World Championships in 2007 and at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, that ban was still very much hanging over her in the minds of the British people.

Whether she has ever taken a banned substance or not—and she insists not—her performances were now tainted by her failure to comply with regulations. As innocent a mistake as it may have been, there will always be suspicion.

Ohuruogu, a London girl herself, was supposed to have been the face of the 2012 Olympic Games in her home city. In the end, though, she would play second fiddle to the likes of Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah in the buildup to the games.

Her image simply did not fit with what the organisers wanted to portray of the games, while the Sun newspaper was particularly vocal in insisting she was not the games' poster girl following her success in Beijing.

Ohuruogu has insisted that she is not worried whether she will get the recognition that her achievements deserve, per BBC Sport, but there must be a feeling of regret when she considers what could have been.

There are those, though, who believe that she deserves to be placed on a pedestal regardless of previous incidents. Steve Cram recently gave his opinion in his BBC Sport column:

Christine has not received the credit she deserves, or the respect she deserves, from some aspects of the media and, therefore, the public because she's not been pushed forward as a big star.

Some of that has been of Christine's doing. She doesn't necessarily like that aspect of it all, she doesn't chase publicity, and perhaps that's why she doesn't get written about as much.

Christine is so popular with the team, so popular with myself, because we know how difficult it is to be at your best for major championships time and time again.

But I really hope she will now rightfully be seen alongside the greatest of the greats.

Cram may skirt round the real issue behind the lack of warmth toward Ohuruogu, but he has a valid point.

Perhaps, though, events like the Great North City Games this weekend can help win over the British public.

Ohuruogu will run in the 150 metres through the streets of Gateshead in an event quite like no other, where the crowd is virtually on top of the four competing athletes. The spectators, who watch free of charge, feel a greater connection with the athletes, and that, ultimately, is something Ohuruogu needs.

It won't be easy for her to achieve success over the shorter distance with Jamaican Aleen Bailey, a sprinter of some repute, also lining up in the race. With the right attitude on the day, though, Ohuruogu can begin to build upon the success she achieved at this summer's World Championship.

Now 29, she is a much older and wiser woman than the girl who made mistakes early in her career. With ambitions of running in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, per the Guardian, there is still time to change her public image.

She is undoubtedly one of Britain's greatest performers in athletic competition, but for the moment, she is not widely regarded as a British sporting hero. It is a great shame, but one that is understandable given the circumstances.