Madlug Stories: From Care Kid to Olympic Star
Kriss Akabusi is known for his ready, larger-than-life laugh as well as his prowess on the athletics track. But he's also a man who sees himself as shaped by his upbringing in a children's home.
Kriss was born in Paddington to Nigerian parents who were studying in London. However, when his parents returned to Nigeria when he was four, Kriss and his brother Riba were left in the care of their uncle who neglected his duty of care leading to the brothers being placed into the care system. Despite this, Kriss went on to become an athletics superstar winning a host of hurdles titles including 3 Olympic medals, 3 World Championship medals and 3 European Golds, breaking the British record in the process at the 1990 European Championships in Split."To stand on the top as a champion and to have your name etched in the record books, that is something else. To be the kid from a children’s home, having the world clapping you and slapping you on the back, is amazing."
His upbringing, with a series of foster parents as well as in a children's home, was not the easiest start in life, and Kriss believes it has formed every aspect of his character. "My fortitude, ability to get on with it, ability to see the lighter side of life, embrace the moment, that has all come from a children’s home. Good and bad, it has shaped the person I am." Kriss Akabusi is a prime example of someone who has taken the experiences of growing up in care and used them to his advantage to become highly successful. He didn’t conform to any stereotypes or let any stigmatisation shape his path in life; he drew on both the positive and negative experiences of his childhood, that many of his competitors wouldn’t have had, to become a champion in his sport.
The same can apply to today’s young people who are growing up within the care system. Whilst they undoubtedly have to endure tough experiences, they can, with the right support, mold these experiences into skills that can help them become successful.“I am not necessarily saying to the children in a home, follow me and do what I did. I am a good story. I have shown you can have a less than stable background and shaky start. There are people and systems in place that, if you show desire and attitude, will take you and your less than perfect start and give you the opportunity to have a perfect ending."