Obituary: Christian Small

Christian Small Christian Small was a popular member of his athletics club

A trip to Africa before he died had inspired Christian Small to change his name to Christian Njoya Diawara Small.

He felt this was a better reflection of his character because Njoya Diawara means "strong in spirit".

It was a quality his family said he had in abundance.

The 28-year-old's drive and determination had ensured his hurdling talent never went to waste, and in May he won gold in the Middlesex County Championship.

How much further his dedication would have taken him will never be known.

On 7 July, he left his flat in Walthamstow, east London, at 0800 BST on his way to work in Holborn, in advertising sales, but never arrived.

His route would have involved changing to the Piccadilly Line either at Finsbury Park or King's Cross.

Later that day, when he could not be contacted by phone, fears for his safety grew and Christian's sister Tameka, 21, was joined by his friends and his parents in pinning up posters around London.

But the news they had been dreading came when his death was confirmed.

Mentoring role

His mother Sheila said any anger felt over the loss of her son should not detract from his aspirations, such as educating young people about Africa or campaigning for fair trade and debt relief.

Start Quote

Christian, we celebrate your life, a flame that lighted the way and touched many with its warmth, so short-lived and yet brilliant”

End Quote Family's tribute

The tribute to him read out at the inquest into the deaths of all those who died in the bombings spoke of a "respectful, diplomatic, caring and loving" young man who from childhood wanted to look after those younger than himself.

His family said it came as no surprise when he opted to travel to the United States, where as a Camp America summer scheme camp leader, he was mentor and teacher to disadvantaged children from inner city backgrounds.

The statement said: "As a gifted soul, Christian was able to successfully balance sports, academia, a search for identity and strong friendships.

"This gift enabled him to gain a BA (Honours), achieve a personal best in the high hurdles and develop a network of friends from diverse backgrounds."

In the year before he died, Mr Small joined Enfield and Haringey Athletic Club and progressed very quickly.

His coach, Eric Brees, paid tribute to a "popular" member of the team.

His last competition was the London Inter-Club Challenge on 2 July 2005 at the New River Stadium in Haringey, where he finished second in the 110-metre hurdles.

He also loved football - choosing as a child to follow Luton Town Football Club because he could identify with their large selection of high profile black players and he liked the kit colours.

Self-discovery

Some of the strong friends that his family spoke of paid tribute to Mr Small in the days after his death.

Christian Small The 28-year-old was inspired by his visit to west Africa

One, flatmate Vanessa Walters, paid tribute in the Guardian newspaper, writing: "We grew up together. Always slightly too serious for his years, he was thoughtful and earnest - initiating house debates on anything."

But it was Mr Small's trip to west Africa, in which he researched his family origins, that was a journey of self-discovery, of body, heart and mind and prompted his name change.

There, he worked in a small village, and wrote regular emails home, which he later began to turn into a book

In her tributes, his mother said: "Christian, you return now to that Great Source from which we have all come.

"Though you will live forever in our hearts and minds and be with us in spirit, your body now returns to the earth, you voice becomes one with the wind, your tears one with the rain, your laughter one with the waves.

"Christian, we celebrate your life, a flame that lighted the way and touched many with its warmth, so short-lived and yet brilliant.

"Njoya, man of great spirit and determination, we will always love and remember you."

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