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Sally Gunnell Speaks to Aviva and Gives Some Training Tips

The other day was International Women’s Day, and Aviva Athletics took the opportunity to chat to British 400m hurdling legend Sally Gunnell. Sally talked to Aviva about athletics in general and the role of women in athletics, as well as her idols, fondest memories and training.

Sally Gunnell was born in Essex in 1966 and started her training at the Woodford Green with Essex Ladies Athletics club and went on to win many medals in the 400m hurdles.

Sally Gunnell’s Sporting Icons

The first icon the Sally mentioned was Shirley Strong. She is a British athlete who competed in the 1984 Summer Olympic Games. She won silver in the 100m hurdles. She still holds the British record for the 100m hurdles.


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Sally was also inspired by the American track and field athlete Ed Moses. Ed Moses won over 100 races, more than any athlete before him or since. He actually won 107 consecutive finals and broke the world record for his event 4 times. He won gold in the 400m hurdles in the 1976 Montreal games and the 1984 Los Angeles games.

Sally’s Greatest Role Model As A Young Athlete

Before entering the world of track and field athletics Sally Gunnell was a gymnast, and name 2 great gymnasts as being her childhood / teenage heroes. Olga Korbut was one of her earliest heroes. She scored “perfect 10s” and Sally said that her back somersaults were the best ever performed. She was from Belarus and represented the USSR in the 1972 and 1976 Olympic Games.

She also recalled fond memories of watching the Friday Night Athletics at Crystal Palace and seeing Seb Coe and Steve Ovett race, as well as watching Daley Thompson in his early decathlon days.

Sally’s Favorite Olympic Events

When asked which even she would most like to do if she was not a 400m hurdler, she chose the long jump. Why? “I think it looks easy, quite glamours and lots of fun!” Sally then talked about her attempts at pole vault, which generally ended in disaster by the sounds of it. Sally laughed a lot during this part of the interview.

Sally said again that it was gymnastics that she was really passionate about. “I used to love gymnastics.

Sally Gunnell the Marathon Runner

Sally ran the London marathon in 2007. She says that she loved running it but also said that she would not do it again.

Sally’s tips for would be marathon runners was quite simple really:


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“Make sure you train half decently because it is a long way and it will hurt. It will hurt if you have trained, but if you have not trained it will hurt even more!”

Good advice! No amount of training will prevent it from hurting, all you can do is prepare as best as possible. Same advice could be used for competitive martial arts training, weight lifting or any other physical sport really.

Coach Gunnell?

Sally Gunnell said that she has no plans at present to start a career in coaching. She said that coaching is a very time consuming job and at the moment her time is spent looking after her 3 young boys.

Sally’s Advice For Young Athletes

Sally’s top tip for young athletes is the advice that her coach gave to her as a child. It is simple:

“There is no such word as Can’t.”

Sally recalls her coach telling her “there is no such word as can’t” when Sally first said that she could not do something. Simple advice. Powerful.

Positive Female Sporting Role Models Today

When asked who she feels in the most positive female role model in athletics today who can inspire young athletes, she said Jessica Ennis sets a very good example, she trains her and is focused, a perfect role model.

It takes a lot of drive, focus and belief in yourself to do well in athletics. The key is to not let self doubt creep in and to stay positive. This rule can apply to all sports as well as athletics.

Diet and Cooking Advice


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Sally appeared on celebrity Masterchef (UK television) and was asked if she had any cooking tips.

“Always try your food all the way through when cooking for others. Then adjust as you go along. Never just serve it up!”

Sally like all people sometimes will treat herself. Her favorite treat food is pancakes with sugar and lemon. Sally and her family eat pancakes every Saturday after her husband and sons get back from football.

If she only had £5 left she admitted that she would buy “naughty food” such as chocolate, crisps or crispy duck.

The interview with Aviva was shown on Aviva’s Facebook page.

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