Me and my school photo: Sally Gunnell



23:00 GMT, 3 August 2012

This is me, aged 11, in Mrs Gordon’s class at Chigwell Primary, a very nice village school I attended from the age of five.

I’m wearing the summer uniform of a blue and white check dress. The rest of the year we wore grey skirts, white shirts and royal blue jumpers.

I was born and brought up on the family farm. It surrounds the school, so I just walked across the fields to get there. When I was in the playground I’d sometimes see my dad, Les, going past on a tractor, which was entertaining.

Sally Gunnell sits on the far left, she attended a very nice village school

Sally Gunnell sits on the far left, she attended a very nice village school

My mum, Rosemary, was a good farmer’s wife and worked on the farm, put dinner on the table, and sorted out me and my two brothers, Martin and Paul. I spent much of my childhood running around the farm.

I remember being very nervous starting at school though, as I wasn’t very confident or outgoing as a child. I wasn’t particularly academic either – I was terrible at French and I never really ‘got’ maths, but I was OK at English, history and geography. Even from the age of five though, I was into sport. A teacher, Mrs Kaye, ran all the school sport and really encouraged us. She was quite strict and would make all the girls do handstands to ensure we had navy blue knickers on.

Sally was nicknamed Grasshopper at school

Sally was nicknamed Grasshopper at school

The first time I realised I was fast
was playing kiss-chase in the playground aged five. I used my speed to
catch the boys I liked – and to run away from those I didn’t! My
nickname was Grasshopper because long jump was my thing then, and I had a
natural spring in me. I vividly remember winning on Sports Day, though
it embarrassed me and I was never cocky. At my secondary school, I’d
even slow down so I didn’t win by too much.

failed my 11-Plus, which meant I went on to West Hatch, a massive local
comprehensive but I didn’t mind; all I cared about was my running. Mrs
Kaye had suggested I join an athletics club, which I did at 12. She
followed my athletics career avidly. I was the subject of TV’s This Is
Your Life in 1997, but sadly Mrs Kaye couldn’t be there as she had died
from breast cancer years before.

parents are in their 80s now and still live on the farm. They wanted
to create a caravan site in their fields for six weeks for the London
Olympics, but Chigwell Primary objected and sent them a very nasty
letter about it, even though the site wouldn’t have overlooked the
school. I was very disappointed, especially as my brothers and I had
gone there. I still see a few friends from Chigwell Primary and it still
looks much the same, but I don’t have any inclination to go back there

Sally Gunnell works with McCain to promote healthy, active lifestyles. Visit