Gunnell in 1995
|Full name||Sally Jane Janet Gunnell|
|Born||29 July 1966|
Chigwell, Essex, England
|Residence||Steyning, West Sussex, England|
|Height||1.66 m (5 ft in)|
|Weight||57.5 kg (9 st 1 lb)|
|Event(s)||400 m hurdles|
Sally Jane Janet Gunnell (born 29 July 1966) is a British former track and field athlete who won the 1992 Olympic gold medal in the 400 metres hurdles. She is the only female British athlete to have won Olympic, World, European and Commonwealth titles, and was the first female 400 metres hurdler in history to win the Olympic and World titles and break the world record. Her former world record time of 52.74 secs in 1993, still ranks in the world all-time top ten and is the current British record. She was made an MBE in 1993 and an OBE in 1998.
Gunnell was born in Chigwell, Essex, England to Les and Rosemary Gunnell, and grew up on the family's three-hundred-acre farm and attended the local primary and West Hatch High schools in Chigwell.
Gunnell started out in athletics with the Essex Ladies club 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, Gunnell 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, Gunnell 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 summer season however was disappointing, when she only finished sixth at the European Championships.
Gunnell entered into the best phase of her career in 1991, improving her own three-year-old UK record three times. In Monaco she ran 53.78, in Zurich she ran 53.62, 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. She also anchored the British 4 × 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. Gunnell is one of only two female 400 metres hurdlers (the other is Dalilah Muhammad) to have won the Olympic and World titles and broken the world 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 from which she would never fully recover. Her defence of her Olympic title in Atlanta in 1996 was cut short when she pulled up injured in the semi-finals. This seemed a particularly cruel blow, as this race occurred on her 30th birthday. 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 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. She also won a Weakest Link Sporting Heroes Special, first broadcast on 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 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). In 2011, Gunnell was appointed Deputy Lieutenant of West Sussex.
|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||17th (h)||100 m hurdles||13.22 (wind: 0.0 m/s)|
|1987||World Championships||Rome, Italy||10th (sf)||100 m hurdles||13.06|
|1988||European Indoor Championships||Budapest, Hungary||4th||400 m||51.77|
|Olympic Games||Seoul, South Korea||11th (sf)||100 m hurdles||13.13|
|5th||400 m hurdles||54.03|
|6th||4 × 400 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||4 × 400 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||4 × 400 m||3:24.78|
|1991||World Championships||Tokyo, Japan||2nd||400 m hurdles||53.16|
|4th||4 × 400 m||3:22.01|
|1992||Olympic Games||Barcelona, Spain||1st||400 m hurdles||53.23|
|3rd||4 × 400 m||3:24.23|
|1993||World Championships||Stuttgart, Germany||1st||400 m hurdles||52.74|
|3rd||4 × 400 m||3:23.41|
|1994||European Championships||Helsinki, Finland||1st||400 m hurdles||53.33|
|4th||4 × 400 m||3:24.14|
|Commonwealth Games||Victoria, Canada||1st||400 m hurdles||54.51|
|1st||4 × 400 m||3:27.06|
|World Cup||London, England||1st||400 m hurdles||54.80|
|1st||4 × 400 m||3:27.36|
|1996||Olympic Games||Atlanta, United States||DNF (sf)||400 m hurdles||55.29 (heat)|
|1997||World Indoor Championships||Paris, France||13th (h)||400 m||53.05|
|6th||4 × 400 m||3:32.25|
|World Championships||Athens, Greece||DNS (sf)||400 m hurdles||54.53 (heat)|
|(#) Indicates overall position in qualifying heats (h) or semifinals (sf)|
Note: Represented Great Britain in all events excluding the Commonwealth Games, where she represented England and the 1989 World Cup, where she represented Europe.