We talked to her about the celebrity physical challenge show, getting a cockroach stuck up her nose on I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here and gardening with her Olympic javelins…
Tell us about the Eternal Glory?
“Me and the seven other athletes are given a series of physical challenges and at the end of each episode one of us goes home. We’ll be tested to the max and assessed for psychological endurance, reaction speed, agility, hand-eye coordination, strength, stamina, visualisation, strategy, adaptability, and recovery time. The last one standing is the champion!”
Who are you up against?
“Rower James Cracknell, rugby player Shane Williams, footballer Matt Le Tissier, runner Liz McColgan, sprinter Christian Malcolm, long-jumper Jade Johnson and badminton player Gail Emms.”
Who did you get on really well with in the programme?
“Liz McColgan was great, but I loved them all. I’ve got an admiration for James Cracknell for coming back from the serious injury that he had a few years ago. Matt Le Tissier has a great sense of humour and Shane Williams is a nice guy. They’re all nice people, they all bring something different to the table and it was great to be able to share that time with them. But us oldies showed them we could still give them a run for their money!”
You were on the same Olympic team as Liz McColgan back in 1988 do you have fond memories of those times?
“Yeah that was what’s nice to see her. Liz and I didn’t have a chance as much to communicate when you’re competing because you’re mind is focused on your event, but it was nice to reminisce about those times. We talked about old times and the athletes we knew when we were competing like Ovett, Coe, Thompson, Sanderson and Yvonne Murray. It was all good that way.”
How was living with the other athletes?
“That was quite fun actually. If you asked me the difference between that and I’m A Celeb… the programmes are quite different in as much that with I’m A Celeb it’s more a survival thing, but you’re with people and you have to work together and it was the same here in a way. You have breakfast together, you hang out together and there’s a lot of banter and as you can imagine with athletes, they’re quick, they’re very sharp.”
Did they ask you about the time the cockroach got stuck up your nose?
“That was a bigger challenge to me than any of the physical stuff! You can’t do anything about it, you just have to stay in control in situations like that. It was a bit of a worry because you start to think where’s this cockroach going to come out? A doctor told me it could come up your eyes or your mouth. But it hadn’t just gone up my nose it had gone completely behind my nose into the skull and I could feel its legs but it wouldn’t move even though we tried four or five times to flush it out with the solution. It seemed quite comfortable up there. But it was the strangest feeling. Funnily enough the kids remember that, where their parents remember me as an athlete!”
Would you ever have a go at Strictly?
“That would be a challenge. It would be nice to have a go. I wouldn’t say no and also Bear Grylls. That’s more my thing. I love survival shows.”
You won a bronze medal and a silver medal at the Olympics in 1984 and 1988. It’s a shame you couldn’t complete the set!
“When I look back I think over it I had about 11 different major medals and the one that eluded me was the gold. Unfortunately I had ruptured my shoulder by that time which cut my career short by about eight years. But breaking the world record and won gold at the European Championships and World Championships and silver and bronze in the Olympics and commonwealth… I can’t complain!”
Confident you could have got that gold in 1992?
“Yeah I definitely would have done and I definitely think I could have pushed the world record further! There were a few more medals to win, but I always say I’m lucky to do what I did when I did it. There are a lot of athletes out there they’re very talented and have all these possibilities but aren’t able to move forward. So I was lucky I went as far as I did.”
Do you still have the javelin you won the Olympic medals with?
“They’re in the garden with runner beans growing up them! I’ve given a lot of kids some of my stuff as well because I used to do quite a lot of coaching so some kids have had my boots and my other javelins. I also did a celebrity auction programme which helped raise money for underprivileged kids because I lived in children’s homes for the first 14 years so that’s a cause which is very close to my heart.”
What about your medals?
“They’re stuffed in a tennis racket case because I go round and talk to kids in schools. I think it’s important to try and motivate and inspire kids because that’s how I got involved. It makes a big difference to kids to see that it’s actually achievable.”