Sally Gunnell

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Sally Gunnell
Sally Gunnell in 1995 (cropped).jpg
Gunnell in 1995
Personal information
Full name Sally Jane Janet Gunnell
Nationality British
Born (1966-07-29) 29 July 1966 (age 47)[1]
Chigwell, Essex, England
Height 166 cm (5 ft 5 in)[2]
Weight 57.5 kg (9 st 1 lb)
Sport Athletics
Event(s) 400 m hurdles
Club Essex Ladies

Sally Jane Janet Gunnell OBE DL (born 29 July 1966 in Chigwell, Essex) is a British former Olympic champion in the 400 m hurdles. She also worked as a television presenter, predominantly for the BBC until January 2006.[3]

Early life[edit]

Gunnell grew up on her parents' farm and attended the local primary and West Hatch High schools in Chigwell.[4]



Gunnell started out in athletics with the Essex Ladies club[5] as an accomplished long jumper and pentathlete, before turning to the sprints and hurdling.

Gunnell won the 400 m hurdles at the 1992 Summer Olympic Games in Barcelona.[6] She set the world record in the same event when she won gold in the 1993 World Championships. This record was broken by Kim Batten in 1995, but is still the British record. Her defence of her Olympic title in Atlanta in 1996 was cut short when as she pulled up injured in the semi-finals. This seemed a particularly cruel blow, as this race occurred on her 30th birthday.[7]

In 1996, Gunnell worked as a Red Cross ambassador in Angola. In September 1997, she retired after a recurrence of an achilles tendon injury.

Gunnell remains the only woman to have held the European, World, Commonwealth and Olympic 400 metre hurdles titles at the same time.[8]

Gunnell is now involved as one of the ambassadors for McCain's Track & Field partnership with UK Athletics.[9]


She was one of the four celebrity guests in the ITV's You Bet! – Series 7 (1993–94), co-winning with Michaela Strachan, donating her winnings to a charity working to find a cure for breast cancer. She was presented the big red book in 1997.

In summer 2006, she was a celebrity showjumper in the BBC's Sport Relief event Only Fools on Horses.[10] She also won a Weakest Link Sporting Heroes Special, first broadcast on Saturday 25 July 2009 on BBC One.

She took part in a celebrity version of TV show Total Wipeout which aired on 2 January 2010.

In 2012, Gunnell took part on ITV's The Cube and won £20,000 for her charity.


In the 1993 New Year Honours, Gunnell was made an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) and in the 1998 Queen's Birthday Honours, she was made an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire).[11] In 2011, Gunnell was appointed Deputy Lieutenant of West Sussex.[12]

Personal life[edit]

She is married to fellow athlete Jonathan Bigg, and has three sons; Finley, Luca and Marley. She lives in Steyning, in West Sussex, just outside Brighton.[13]


  1. ^ "Sally Gunnell". Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved 9 February 2014. 
  2. ^ "Sally Gunnell". British Olympic Association. Retrieved 9 February 2014. 
  3. ^ Daily Mail (15 January 2006). ""BBC undermined me so I quit, says Gunnell"". Retrieved 1 September 2011. 
  4. ^ Robertson, Peter (4 August 2012). "Me and my school photo: Sally Gunnell | Mail Online". 'weekend'. UK: Daily Mail. p. 6. 
  5. ^ The Glorious Tale of Two Clubs now United. Woodford Green Athletic Club, accessed 08/11/07
  6. ^ Sally Gunnell, accessed 08/11/07
  7. ^ Essex at 20: Sally Gunnell BBC, accessed 08/11/07
  8. ^ Sally Gunnell BBC, accessed 08/11/07
  9. ^ "McCain Track & Field - Meet The Athletes: Sally Gunnell". Retrieved 7 August 2012. 
  10. ^ Celebs saddle up for Sport Relief BBC, accessed 08/11/07
  11. ^ Sports stars share honours BBC, accessed 08/11/07
  12. ^ Walker, Tim (10 October 2011). "Sally Gunnell to be Queen's loyal lieutenant". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 11 October 2011. 
  13. ^ Super Sally's Spanish Success Sporting Life, accessed 08/11/07

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Women's European Athlete of the Year
Succeeded by
Russia Irina Privalova
Sporting positions
Preceded by
Soviet Union Tatyana Ledovskaya
Women's 400 m Hurdles Best Year Performance
Succeeded by
United States Kim Batten