Tokyo's 1991 World Championships could so easily have brought her the Gold medal; in the lead at the penultimate hurdle, she glanced across at one of her rivals. That uncharacteristic split second of mental diversion left her with the Silver and a burning sense of disappointment. Gunnell returned to the track's biggest stage in 1992; the Barcelona Olympics. Months of hard graft paid off and she progressed to the 400m hurdles final without incident. An indifferent start to the biggest race of her life was soon forgotten as she engaged the Gunnell afterburner to blow away her rivals in the last 150 metres. Olympic Gold and a place in history were hers.
But Gunnell was not finished yet. She worked even harder during the off-season of 1992/3, building in a raft of changes to her nutrition, physical and technical training; nothing was left to chance. Her coach knew exactly how to get her "peaked" in time for the World Championships in Stuttgart and all was going perfectly to plan with a week left. But on arrival in Germany, Gunnell developed a heavy cold. She hid this from her rivals and managed to battle through qualifying and make the final. Such was her state of illness the night before the race that she called a press conference to announce her withdrawal. At the last minute, she had a change of heart and pulled the conference. This proved to be an excellent decision; although feeling well below par, Sally stormed to the Gold, setting a new World Record in the process.
Although her later career was blighted by injury, eventually coming to an end in 1997, Gunnell's achievements in '92 and '93 assured her place in the history books. No other woman has held Commonwealth, European, World and Olympic track titles concurrently and although her world record has been broken by American athlete Kim Batten, her Stuttgart time remains a British record.
Sally became part of the BBC Sport team and was a regular fixture on Athletics programmes throughout the Noughties, until 2006, interviewing athletes on the finish line and bringing the trackside atmosphere in to millions of living rooms across the UK. She has appeared in numerous TV shows including A Question of Sport and Total Wipeout. She is a regular on the Breakfast News sofas and conducts hundreds of radio interviews each year.
Whilst Sally was naturally a very talented runner, one thing she is very aware of is that although she had to train very hard physically, the amount of mental training was just as important. When she trained she focused strongly on imagining her best performance. It became so natural for her to think this way, that when she did run there was a time lapse before she realised that she had actually won the race rather than just imagined it.
Sally went on to win Olympic, World, European and Commonwealth medals using these techniques. She now uses the same approach to bring health and fitness to a wider audience through non-threatening and easy to understand principles.
Sally Gunnell’s career on and off the track provides a unique insight into achieving a balance in life and proven recipes for success and fulfilment. During her career she adopted key principles and routines with her ‘team’ that delivered the results most people can only dream of. Now her off-track career has seen her combine commercial commitments with her community and charitable work, whilst being a mother and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Sally’s presentation relates to a wide cross-section of businesses in all sectors, providing realistic goal setting and fresh approaches that can apply to any of us. It is about delivering easy to follow concepts that relate to the broadest spectrum possible. It is not just another motivational talk from a top sportsperson. It is however, based on a combination of the basic ideas in Sally’s campaign for gold with some principles of wellbeing both physical and mental that she has gleaned from four years working with leading names in these fields.
Sally has delivered motivational talks for companies including IBM, Royal Bank of Scotland, BT and Investors In People.
Sally’s speech was highly inspirational and motivational. Her story, while unrelated to our profession, was easily translatable to our line of work. She went down a storm with our delegates and would be an ideal speaker for virtually any audience.
"Sally is such an inspiration. She is down to earth and a brilliant motivational speaker. At the Women in Construction Awards 2012 she had everyone on the edge of their seats, you could even hear a pin drop. All of our guests loved her. I would definitely recommend her as a speaker."
Events Manager, Excel Publishing
We wanted Sally's talk to be motivational and it certainly was! Guests spoke afterwards about the hairs of the back of their neck standing on end, when she showed winning the gold at Barcelona. The event was a huge success and Sally was pivotal in that success
Director of Communities - Gravesham Borough Council
The girls were full of Sally Gunnell’s talk after the event. Girls have told their teachers they have been inspired in their sport and academic studies to aim high. At a Parents’ evening two days later parents were volunteering positive comments about the visit and explaining that their daughters had recounted the messages given by Sally. I have no doubt that Sally’s wise words will stay with the girls for many, many years"
Headmistress - St Albans High School for Girls