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The Conversation: We catch up with athlete Sally Gunnell

By Staff Reporter

The 47-year-old is the only female athlete to hold the Olympic, World, European and Commonwealth titles concurrently, and the only female 400m hurdler ever to have won the Olympic and World titles and broken the world record. She is married to athletics coach Jonathan Bigg, and they have three sons.

Are you still involved in athletics?

Yes I am, I still follow what's going on. My husband is involved with coaching, I sit on the board at Sport England, which is great and really keeps me involved with all the different sports. I also mentor a couple of young hurdlers. It's still my first love, and my family run too, so I'm going to all the meetings like my parents did many years ago.

So your boys are following in your footsteps?

The oldest one was a good footballer, but in the last couple of years he decided he quite fancied the idea of running and is starting to do really well. He's enjoying it, and I think that's the main thing – when you train hard and push yourself, you have to have some sort of enjoyment there, which is lovely to see. The other two are still young; they're into all sorts of mountain biking and skateboarding, which boys should be!

Are you looking forward to the Commonwealth Games?

Yeah, I really am actually, it's got a real buzz going on. I think everybody's really looking forward to it after the success of the Olympics. We now realise we love that good feeling and I think everybody will get that from the Commonwealth Games.

We can expect some great performances, and it'll be well organised. Everybody will get into it when they watch the programmes after work. I'm going to go up to Glasgow for a couple of days, and I'm looking forward to seeing how everyone gets on.

Is there anybody we should look out for in particular?

It's a tricky one because we're split into England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. But the really exciting ones ... we have a couple of really good heptathletes, Katarina Johnson-Thompson and Morgan Lake. So I think it's more about the youngsters coming through who get the opportunity to take part in a major championships. I think we'll do really well and will have lots to cheer about. It will be exciting to see those youngsters.

We could be split up again, but more permanently if Scotland votes for independence

That could well happen, and I think that would be a bit of a shame. Sometimes when we go and compete on the Olympic and the world front, we're against some big countries like America and Russia, so you want the Great Britain team to be at its strongest, and to do that you need all four countries uniting together and getting the best athletes in there. So it would be a shame on a sporting front if we couldn't do that.

You're now a fitness consultant

I do a lot about health and wellbeing, giving people information, whether that's in the workplace or outside. They know they should be more active and eat healthier, but what does that actually mean? So it's about exploding some of the myths that are going on and giving people real information and tips on getting active, fitting it into everyday life, just very simple things. What I do is have solutions to people's health problems and worries.

What are your tips for staying healthy?

Exercise and nutrition go hand in hand. Breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day, but so many people miss it. If you do then you start to binge later on and you get that low in the afternoon when you've got no energy. So if you can have a healthy breakfast, then it kicks you off at the start of the day. And keep healthy snacks with you. It's finding alternatives to fatty, sweet stuff that's the key.

What else are you up to at the moment?

We're developing a website and we're looking at a new biking challenge that I'll hopefully be announcing soon. What I enjoy is that through the motivational speaking and the health and wellbeing, you can change a lot of people's lives.

But you have to keep reinventing yourself. I've done a lot of stuff around kids, but as my kids are getting older I'm much more in to general health and wellbeing and I'm very excited about that.

The plug

Sally Gunnell is an ambassador for the naturally fat-free dairy ingredient, Lake District Dairy Co Quark. For details and recipes, visit

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