Sharron Davies: I'm almost 50, but I still feel like a winner
Former Olympic swimmer Sharron Davies talks to Diana Pilkington about getting older, boob jobs, being a single mum and her excitement as the Games draw closer.
You're conducting interviews poolside at the olympics for the BBC again this year. How are you feeling about the games?
Very excited. I was involved with the bid, so I've seen this coming for seven years and all the hard work that's gone into it. But also all the legacy that's there for the children, in particular for swimming. We've built more 50m pools in the last three years in this country than we've built in the previous 30 years. And if you build more pools, you will get more swimmers.
How do you think the competitors are feeling?
Excited and nervous. They'll have spent the majority of the last eight years training for just this particular Olympics. There's a big advantage to having a home games. You've got an awful lot of support but also the same climate, food and television programmes, and your friends and family are close by. But it also brings the pressure and expectation.
How do you stay fit and healthy these days?
I don't swim very often, just because I did six hours a day for 20 years of my life so it's nice to do something else. I've got a gym in my basement at home so I usually use the cross trainer or a bike. I'm a big believer in core stability, so I still do quite a lot for stomach and arms and I do a few weights for the old bingo wings that us ladies are susceptible to! It's just a basic 50-minutes-to-an-hour programme that I try to do three times a week. I also have three kids, aged 18, 13 and five, so they keep me pretty busy as well!
Are you conscious of what you eat?
I'm not a foodie, thank goodness. I'm not someone who spends all day thinking about what they're going to have for dinner. But when I first stopped swimming, I did no training and just carried on eating the vast quantities of food I was used to. I put on three stone and absolutely hated it. I did the yo-yo diet for a year and it was only when I went back to sensible exercise and sensible eating, and not being paranoid about calories, that I went back to normal again. I think diets make people food-obsessed. I think you need to eat when you're hungry, have a sensible balanced diet, and make sure you do enough exercise.
There are quite big age gaps between your children. How has that been for you?
Finley (aged five) was an IVF baby who took me four years and eight rounds of IVF to get, so it wasn't deliberate having that difference in age! But it's absolutely amazing and I love it. The older ones love him to pieces, so they take care of him. And he loves going to watch his big brother play rugby so I don't find it a stress or strain at all. I don't want the little one to grow up if I'm honest.
Have you found it difficult being a single parent?
It's all about juggling. It's hard, but I think the secret is a good support network. It's such a shame that childcare is so expensive, because it makes it so hard for many women who want to go back to work. I'm very lucky because I don't have to work five days a week every week. I probably work a four-day week on the whole. That's perfect for me because I can spend time with my family.
Do you think your children will follow in your footsteps and do something sporty?
My eldest one plays rugby but he wants to fly in the RAF. He's just about to do his A-levels but he's wanted to fly for a long time. My middle one has just had England under-17 trials for netball and is only 13. She also does athletics really well for the county. The little one is the only one who's really mad on swimming. The others can swim well but they're not swimmers, whereas Finn really enjoys the water. So who knows?
Do you have a tip for maintaining wellbeing?
Always go and seek the advice of professionals. Always go to the best hairdressers, the best skin specialists, the best make-up people. And don't be a slave to fashion. You need to work with what works for you. I'm 5ft 11in and can't wear flowers or frills. I've got a broad pair of shoulders so tailored things look really good on me. I've got very strong bone structure in my face. People tell me I'm very lucky and I do appreciate it but harsh hairdos don't work on me.
Do you have any ailments?
I’m just about to have a knee replacement. And, as a swimmer, years of rotating your shoulders just wears them out. I think that's all part of the course of being an elite athlete. It's worth it!
You're approaching your 50th birthday. How do you feel about it?
I'm not particularly looking forward to being 50. But you could line up three 50-year-olds and they would look totally different. I genuinely believe that age isn't as important as it used to be. Before, you'd get to 30 and you were expected to have your 2.4 children or whatever, and you would get to 40 and you'd expect to be in mid-life, and I just don't think that applies nowadays. There are amazing people in their 50s and 60s who show age isn't a barrier.
You've been open about using cosmetic enhancements in the past. Are you still in favour of them?
I had my boobs done after Elliott was born because they went south like so many people's do after you breastfeed. And I only had them put back to what they were. I lived my life in a swimsuit, so it impacted on my career. And with the fillers and the Botox, yes I do, but I think probably absolutely everybody in my profession does at my age, so I just admit it, because I think it's better to be honest. I am in favour of anything that makes you feel better. I think you need to do your research and go to the right people and be careful not to overdo it because that looks worse than not doing it at all.
Sharron Davies is the ambassador for Wella Professionals, part of the P&G|family, which is sponsoring the Olympic Games. For more information on Wella|salons and products, visit wella.com