Kathy Smallwood-Cook

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This article is about the athlete. For the Canadian magazine writer, see Kathy Cook (journalist).
Kathy Smallwood-Cook
Medal record
Women's athletics
Competitor for  Great Britain
Olympic Games
Bronze 1980 Moscow 4x100 m relay
Bronze 1984 Los Angeles 400 m
Bronze 1984 Los Angeles 4x100 m relay
World Championships
Silver 1983 Helsinki 4x100 m relay
Bronze 1983 Helsinki 200 m
European Championships
Silver 1978 Prague 4x100 m relay
Silver 1982 Athens 200 m
Silver 1982 Athens 4x100 m relay
World Cup
Silver 1981 Rome 100 m
World Student Games (Universiade)
Gold 1981 Bucharest 200 m
Silver 1979 Mexico City 100 m
Silver 1979 Mexico City 200 m
Silver 1979 Mexico City 4x100 m relay
Silver 1981 Bucharest 4x100 m relay
Commonwealth Games
Competitor for  England
Gold 1978 Edmonton 4x100 m relay
Gold 1982 Brisbane 4x100 m relay
Gold 1986 Edinburgh 4x100 m relay
Silver 1982 Brisbane 200 m
Silver 1986 Edinburgh 200 m
Silver 1986 Edinburgh 4x400 m relay
Bronze 1986 Edinburgh 400 m

Kathryn Jane Cook MBE (née Smallwood, born 3 May 1960) is one of the most successful female sprinters in British athletics history. She is a three-time Olympic bronze medallist, in the 4 x 100 metres relay in Moscow 1980 and at both the 400 metres and 4 x 100 metres relay in Los Angeles 1984. She won a bronze medal in the 200 metres at the 1983 World Championships in Helsinki. She was also a three-time winner of the British Athletics Writers' Association Female Athlete of the Year Award (1980–1982).

Cook held the UK National records for 100 200 and 400 metres for over 25 years. Her 100 metres best of 11.10 secs, stood as the UK record from 1981–2008. Her 400 metres best of 49.43, stood as the UK record from 1984–2013. She had first broken the 400 m record in 1982. In the sprint relay, along with Heather Hunte, Bev Goddard and Sonia Lannaman, she set the UK record with 42.43 at the 1980 Moscow Olympics, which stood as the UK record until 2014. She still holds the 200 m record with 22.10 from 1984. She has been the holder of the 200 m record since 1980. She is also a former holder of the World Best for 300 metres, with 35.46 in 1984.


Cook was born Kathy Smallwood in Winchester, Hampshire, England. She attended The Hurst Secondary school, Baughurst and later Queen Marys Sixth form college (QMC), Basingstoke. She was a member of the Reading Athletic Club and later the Wolverhampton & Bilston Athletics Club. She was coached throughout her career by Jim Spooner.

Her first major competition was the 1977 European Junior Championships in Donetsk, where she won three medals, bronze in the 100 & 200 metres and a silver in the sprint relay.[1]

In 1978, she competed at the Commonwealth Games in Edmonton and the European Championships in Prague. In Edmonton, representing England, she finished fifth in the 200 metres final in 22.95, narrowly missing a medal, before winning gold in the 4 x 100 m relay with Sharon Colyear, Beverley Goddard and Sonia Lannaman. In Prague, representing Great Britain, the same quartet won a silver medal in the sprint relay.

In 1979, at the World Student Games (Universiade) she won three silver medals. In the 100 metres she finished second behind Marlies Gohr in 11.27, while in the 200 metres she was second to another East German great, Marita Koch, in a PB of 22.70. She also won a silver medal in the 4 x 100 m relay.

Smallwood competed at her first Olympic Games in Moscow 1980, reaching the finals of both the 100 and 200 metres. In the 100 metres, she was sixth in 11.28 secs, while in the 200 metres, she finished fifth in 22.61. She then teamed up with Heather Hunte, who had also reached the 100 m final and Beverley Goddard and Sonia Lannaman, who had both also reached the 200 m final, to win the bronze medal in the 4 x 100 m relay, in a UK record time of 42.43. A record that stood until 2014. Only one week after the Olympics, she broke the UK record for the 200 metres for the first time, with 22.31 in London.[2]

Smallwood won her biggest individual title in 1981, winning the 200 metres at the World Student Games in Bucharest, in 22.78 secs. She also won a silver medal in the 4 x 100 relay. Later that year, at the IAAF World Cup, she came in as a late replacement for Sweden's Linda Haglund, to run for Europe in the 100 metres. She finished second to Evelyn Ashford in a UK record time of 11.10, defeating Marlies Gohr, who was third. This would stand as the UK record for 27 years, until Montell Douglas ran 11.05 in 2008. Also in 1981, Smallwood had her first attempt at the 400 m distance. At a meeting in London, she finished second to the world number one that year, Jarmila Kratochvilova, running 51.08.[3]

In August 1982, at the European Championships in Athens, Smallwood broke her own UK 200 m record with 22.13 secs, to finish a close second to Olympic Champion Barbel Wockel, who ran 22.04. She won another silver in the sprint relay, along with Wendy Hoyte, Bev Callender (Goddard) and Shirley Thomas. In September, she added the UK 400 m record to her 100 & 200 m records, running 50.46 in London. Then in October, at the Commonwealth Games in Brisbane, she won another silver medal in the 200 metres, in a wind assisted 22.21, being edged out of victory by Jamaica'a Merlene Ottey, who ran 22.19. She did win a gold medal in the sprint relay with Hoyte, Callender and Sonia Lannamann.

In 1983, now competing as Kathy Cook, she won two medals at the inaugural World Championships in Helsinki. On day one of the championships, she won a silver medal in the sprint relay, alongside Joan Baptiste, Bev Callender and Shirley Thomas. She then won the bronze medal in the 200 metres in 22.37, behind Marita Koch and Merlene Ottey and ahead of Florence Griffith.[4]

In 1984, probably Cook's finest season, she won a further two bronze medals at the Los Angeles Olympics. In the 400 metres, she smashed the UK and Commonwealth record with 49.43 secs, behind the American pair of Valerie Brisco-Hooks and Chandra Cheeseborough. This would remain the UK record for almost thirty years, until Christine Ohuruogu ran 49.41 to win at the 2013 World Championships. Cook then narrowly missed winning a medal in the 200 metres final, where she improved her own national record to 22.10. With a strong late surge, she closed rapidly on Florence Griffith and Merlene Ottey-Page, who won silver and bronze in 22.04 and 22.09 respectively. The race was won by 400 champion, Valerie Brisco-Hooks. Cook's 22.10, still stands as the UK record.[5] In the sprint relay, drawn in lane one, she collected another bronze medal, along with Simmone Jacobs and two of her Moscow teammates, Bev Callender (Goddard) and Heather Oakes (Hunte). They ran 43.11[6]

Shortly after the Los Angeles Olympics, Cook won in London over 300 metres, edging out Chandra Cheeseborough. Both were given the time of 35.46 secs, which broke the world best for the rarely contested distance.[7] The mark would remain a world outdoor best until 2003, when Ana Guevara ran 35.30, although it is worth noting that Marita Koch ran a sub 35 sec 300 m split, on her way to her 47.60 world 400 m record in 1985.[8]

1984 would prove to be the peak of Cook's career. In 1985, her 200 metres seasons best was 22.87 for fifth in the European Cup, while in 1986, she failed to run below 23 seconds. She did still manage to win four medals at that years Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh. She won bronze in the 400 metres, behind Australia's Debbie Flintoff and Jillian Richardson of Canada, silver in the 200 metres, behind Canadian Angella Issajenko, gold in the 4 x100 m relay, with Paula Dunn, Joan Baptiste and Heather Oakes and ended the games with a silver medal in the 4 x 400 metres relay, with Jane Parry, Linda Keough and Angela Piggford.

The Great Britain and England Women's 4 x 100 m relay teams won a medal at eight consecutive Olympic (1980, 1984), World (1983), European (1978, 1982), and Commonwealth Championships (1978, 1982, 1986). Cook was the only woman to be a member of every squad. The run ended at the 1986 Europeans, when the British quartet (again, including Cook) was fifth. She always ran the second 'leg', her rangy gait (she is 5'11' tall) and speed endurance being ideal for this position. She also occasionally competed in the 4 x 400 metres relay. She won a total of sixteen senior national titles during her career.

Cook remains the only British woman to have won a World Championship 200 metres medal and the only British athlete (male or female) to have reached Olympic finals at 100 metres, 200 metres and 400 metres.[9] Her accomplishments are all the more significant because many of her rivals after the fall of the "Iron Curtain" were found to have been performing illegally.

Later career[edit]

Kathy Cook retired in 1987 after competing in the UK Championships, to start a family with husband Garry Cook. She is currently a PE teacher at Mayfield Preparatory School, in Walsall, England and has three children, Sarah (1988), Matthew (1989) and George (1992).[10]

In 2011, she was inducted into the England Athletics Hall of Fame.[11]

Personal bests[edit]

  • 100 metres 11.10 secs Rome 5 September 1981 (Former UK record 1981–2008) ran a wind-assisted 11.08 (25 August 1984 Zurich)
  • 200 metres 22.10 Los Angeles 9 August 1984 (UK record)
  • 300 metres 35.46 London (Crystal Palace) 18 August 1984 (UK record, former World Best 1984–2003)
  • 400 metres 49.43 Los Angeles 6 August 1984 (Former UK record 1984–2013)
  • 4 x 100 metres relay 42.43 Moscow 1 August 1980 (Former UK record 1980–2014, with Heather Hunte, Beverley Goddard and Sonia Lannaman)


  • 11 AAAs National titles:
    • 4 Times 100 m Champion 1978, 79, 83, 84 ( 2nd in 79, 85 )
    • 6 Times 200 m Champion 1978, 79, 80, 82, 84, 85
    • 400 m Champion 1986
  • 5 UK National titles:
    • 100 m Champion 1983 ( 3rd in 79, 80 )
    • 4 Times 200 m Champion 1980, 83, 85, 86 ( 2nd in 79, 3rd in 77, 78 )
Year Competition Venue Position Event Notes
Representing  England
1978 Commonwealth Games Edmonton, Canada 5th 200 m 22.96
1st 4x100 m 43.70
1982 Commonwealth Games Brisbane, Australia 2nd 200 m 22.21w
1st 4x100 m 43.15
4th 4x400 m 3:35.35
1986 Commonwealth Games Edinburgh, Scotland 2nd 200 m 23.18
3rd 400 m 51.88
1st 4x100 m 43.39
2nd 4x400 m 3:32.82
Representing  Great Britain
1977 European Junior Championships Donetsk, Ukraine 3rd 100 m 11.71
3rd 200 m 23.53
3rd 4x100 m 44.71
1978 European Championships Prague, Czech Republic 2nd 4x100 m 42.72
1979 European Cup Turin, Italy 3rd 4x100 m 43.18
World Student Games Mexico City, Mexico 2nd 100 m 11.27
2nd 200 m 22.70
2nd 4x100 m 43.26
1980 Olympic Games Moscow, Russia 6th 100m 11.28
5th 200 m 22.61
3rd 4x100 m 42.43
1981 World Student Games Bucharest, Romania 1st 200 m 22.78
2nd 4x100 m 43.86
European Cup Zagreb, Yugoslavia 2nd 100 m 11.27
2nd 200 m 22.65
2nd 4x100 m 43.03
World Cup Rome, Italy 2nd 100 m 11.10
DNF 4x100 m
1982 European Championships Athens, Greece 2nd 200 m 22.13
2nd 4x100 m 42.66
5th 4x400 m 3:25.82
1983 World Championships Helsinki, Finland 3rd 200 m 22.37
2nd 4x100 m 42.71
European Cup London, England 3rd 200 m 22.57
2nd 4x100 m 43.18
5th 4x400 m 3:27.29
1984 Olympic Games Los Angeles, United States 4th 200 m 22.10
3rd 400 m 49.43
3rd 4x100 m 43.11
1985 European Cup Moscow, Soviet Union 5th 200 m 22.87
1986 European Championships Stuttgart, Germany semi-finals 200 m 23.20
5th 4x100 m 43.44
  • At the 1981 World Cup, Smallwood-Cook was representing Europe.
  • The 1983 European Cup was held one week after the World Championships.


External links[edit]