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 48)[1]
Chigwell, Essex, England
Height 1.66 m (5 ft 5 12 in)[2]
Weight 57.5 kg (9 st 1 lb)
Sport
Sport Athletics
Event(s) 400 m hurdles
Club Essex Ladies

Sally Jane Janet Gunnell OBE DL (born 29 July 1966) is a British former track and field athlete who won the 1992 Olympic gold medal in the 400 m hurdles. She is the only female British athlete to have won Olympic, World, European and Commonwealth titles, and (as of 2014) is the only female 400 m hurdler in history to have won the Olympic and World titles and broken the world record. She also worked as a television presenter, predominantly for the BBC until January 2006.[3] She was made an MBE in 1993 and an OBE in 1998.

Early life[edit]

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

Athletics Career[edit]

Gunnell started out in athletics with the Essex Ladies club[5] as an accomplished long jumper and heptathlete, before specialising in hurdling. In 1984, she narrowly missed Olympic selection at both heptathlon, with a score of 5680 points and in the 100 metres hurdles, where she set a UK junior record of 13.30 secs.

In 1986, having won the AAAs and UK titles, Gunnel won the Commonwealth Games gold medal in the 100 metres hurdles in Edinburgh, ahead of Wendy Jeal and 1984 Olympic heptathlon champion Glynis Nunn. She would remain the UK number one in the event over the next four seasons and reach the semi-finals at the 1987 World Championships and 1988 Olympics in the event.

Gunnell first attempted the 400 m hurdles event in 1987, with a 59.9 clocking. In 1988, in her first full season at the event, she would reach the Olympic final in Seoul. At the Olympic trials in Birmingham, she broke the UK record with 55.40. In Seoul she would improve this twice, first to 54.48 in the semis then to 54.03, to finish fifth in the final. This would remain her best time in the event for three years.

In 1989, Gunnel won the European Indoor title at 400 metres. Outdoors, she finished second in the 400 m hurdles at the European Cup behind East Germany's Petra Krug, but ahead of Olympic silver medallist Tatyana Ledovskaya. In September at the World Cup, she was third behind Sandra Farmer-Patrick of the USA and Ledovsakya, but this time ahead of Krug. In January 1990, she defeated 1988 Olympic champion Debbie Flintoff-King to win the Commonwealth title in Auckland. The 1990 outdoor season however was disappointing, when she only finished sixth at the European Championships.

Gunnel entered into the best phase of her career in 1991, improving her own three-year-old UK record three times. In Monte Carlo she ran 53.78, in Zurich she ran 53.63, then at the World Championships in Tokyo, she won the silver medal behind Ledovskaya with 53.16, the then third fastest time of all-time. Ledovskaya won with 53.11.

Gunnell won the 400 m hurdles at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, running 53.23 to defeat Sandra Farmer-Patrick.[6] She also anchored the British 4 x 400 m quartet to a bronze medal. In 1993, she reached her peak, when she set the world record in the 400 hurdles to win gold in the World Championships in Stuttgart, winning in 52.74, narrowly ahead of Farmer-Patrick who ran 52.79, also inside the old record. This record was broken by Kim Batten in 1995, but is still the British record.

In 1994, Gunnell added the European title to her collection, winning comfortably in 53.33. She also won the Goodwill Games ahead of Kim Batten, successfully defended her Commonwealth title and won the World Cup title in London. 1994 was her third (and final) year as the world's number one. She missed most of 1995 due to injury. An injury that she would never be able to fully recover from.

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] Also in 1996, she worked as a Red Cross ambassador in Angola. In September 1997, she retired after a recurrence of an achilles tendon injury forced her to pull out of the World Championships semi-final.

Gunnell remains the only woman to have won the European, World, Commonwealth and Olympic 400 metre hurdles titles.[8] She also remains the only British woman to have won all four titles.

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

Television[edit]

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. In 1997, she was the recipient of the "big red book" on the This is Your Life programme.

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.

Recognition[edit]

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]

Achievements[edit]

  • 7-times AAAs 100 m hurdles champion (1986-1989, 1991-1993)
  • 2-time AAAs 400 m hurdles champion (1988, 1996)
  • 2-time UK Champion - 100 m hurdles (1986) 400 m hurdles (1997)
  • 2-time AAAs Indoor Champion - 200 m (1987) 400 m (1988)
Year Competition Venue Position Event Notes
Representing  Great Britain /  England
1983 European Junior Championships Schwechat, Austria 13th Heptathlon 5395
1986 Commonwealth Games Edinburgh, Scotland 1st 100 m hurdles 13.29
European Championships Stuttgart, West Germany heats 100 m hurdles 13.22
1987 World Championships Rome, Italy semi-final 100 m hurdles 13.06
1988 European Indoor Championships Budapest, Hungary 4th 400 m 51.77
Olympic Games Seoul, South Korea semi-final 100 m hurdles 13.13
5th 400 m hurdles 54.03
6th 4x400 m 3:26.89
1989 European Indoor Championships The Hague, Netherlands 1st 400 m 52.04
World Indoor Championships Budapest, Hungary 6th 400 m 52.60
World Cup Barcelona, Spain 3rd 400 m hurdles 55.25
1990 Commonwealth Games Auckland, New Zealand 2nd 100 m hurdles 13.12
1st 400 m hurdles 55.38
1st 4x400 m 3:28.08
European Indoor Championships Glasgow, Scotland 4th 400 m 53.38
European Championships Split, Yugoslavia 6th 400 m hurdles 55.45
3rd 4x400 m 3:24.78
1991 World Championships Tokyo, Japan 2nd 400 m hurdles 53.16
4th 4x400 m 3:22.01
1992 Olympic Games Barcelona, Spain 1st 400 m hurdles 53.23
3rd 4x400 m 3:24.23
1993 World Championships Stuttgart, Germany 1st 400 m hurdles 52.74
3rd 4x400 m 3:23.41
1994 European Championships Helsinki, Finland 1st 400 m hurdles 53.33
4th 4x400 m 3:24.14
Commonwealth Games Victoria, Canada 1st 400 m hurdles 54.51
1st 4x400 m 3:27.06
World Cup London, England 1st 400 m hurdles 54.80
1st 4x400 m 3:27.36
1996 Olympic Games Atlanta, United States semi-final 400 m hurdles DNF (55.29 in heat)
1997 World Indoor Championships Paris, France heats 400 m 53.05
6th 4x400 m 3:32.25
World Championships Athens, Greece semi-final 400 m hurdles DNS (54.53 in heat)

Notes:

  • Represented Great Britain in all events excluding the Commonwealth Games, where she represented England and the 1989 World Cup, where she represented Europe.
  • DNS = did not start. DNF = did not finish

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Sally Gunnell". sports-reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved 9 February 2014. 
  2. ^ "Sally Gunnell". teamgb.com. 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 britisholymplians.com, 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". mccaintrackandfield.co.uk. 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]


Awards
Preceded by
None
Women's European Athlete of the Year
1993
Succeeded by
Russia Irina Privalova
Sporting positions
Preceded by
Soviet Union Tatyana Ledovskaya
Women's 400 m Hurdles Best Year Performance
1992–1994
Succeeded by
United States Kim Batten