I was the first woman in the Commonwealth to jump over 14 metres, and I am in the top five British triple jumpers of all time, behind legends like Ashia Hansen.
But sport has given me so much more than good memories and records. It’s given me a platform and a voice.
I represented Great Britain at the 1996 Summer Olympics, and England in the triple jump event at the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the 2002 Commonwealths in Manchester and for a third time at the 2006 Games in Melbourne.
When I retired from track and field my transition was quite straightforward because I’d originally set up a personal training company six years before I actually retired. And I often say to people that this allows you to adjust quite quickly to the transition of not being the centre of everything. Setting up a personal training company allowed me to have a purpose when I did finally hang up my spikes.
Now, I see my sport as something that has allowed me to use my voice to shout about the things I am passionate about. It’s opened more doors to me than I can count.
My career as a life coach, mentor, and an ambassador for three very important charities – I get a buzz in a different way; there are times when I feel really proud of myself for using my voice in a different way. I put it down to sport which has afforded me so much, in terms of the confidence to go into a room and speak my truth; the confidence to go into a room and try to make a change.
Sport cannot be underestimated. The level of sport I competed at cannot be underestimated; and the breadth of knowledge, experience, and the network of people sport has given me, is huge.
Do I miss the sport? No, I don’t miss the sport, I don’t miss the level of discipline and when you have to compromise parts of your life for so long, there comes a point when enough is enough. I still keep an eye on the sport, I’m still very passionate about it when I see it on the TV, but do I miss it? No, I don’t! Because I know how hard it is to be at that level for so long.
Anyone who has reached the top of their sport now has a platform, and a voice, and a level of confidence in themselves. That should never be taken for granted. I’ve used mine to represent three charities about which I’m passionate, and also transition into motherhood. I have three wonderful children with my husband Matthew, who is a former pro rugby player with Swansea – winning four caps on the wing for Wales. There’s nothing that comes close to that feeling of being a mother – something I’ve always dreamed of being. Nothing comes close to being a mother, for me.
Sport is still very much in my life. I aim to train at least 3-4 times per week, and that consists of a run or a circuit. I love weight training, the benefits of weight training at my age of 50 are well-known. Weight training is something that I love doing, and it allows me to feel that sense of strength that I used to have, albeit the numbers I lift now are nothing like in comparison to when I was an elite performer.
I’m still the same person as I was as an athlete, fundamentally. I’m conscientious, resilient, just as I was when I was doing track and field; but I show a lot more empathy now. In real life you’re not so secluded and so intensely into yourself as you are when you are immersed in competing, so I show a lot more empathy now.