Denise Lewis Interview


Gold medal winning heptathlete, Denise Lewis lives in Buckinghamshire with her husband, Steve O'Connor, and three children, Lauryn, nine, Ryan, five, and Kane, three.

My mum taught me to work hard. I was born when she was only 17 and she brought me up on her own. I never knew my father. My mother worked long hours in office jobs, but never complained and kept her worries to herself. Like any mother, she wanted me to do well at school, but she never pushed me.

Watching super-human Olympic athletes on screen in our living room was the turning point. I was mesmerised. I badgered my mum and, a few weeks later, she took me to our nearest stadium. It was magical to be in this vast space, seeing these athletes hard at work.

The coach told my mum I was too young to start training. I think he said he wasn't offering a babysitting service! But he said if I was still interested, I could come back the following year. Twelve months later, to the day, aged nine, I was back there, ready to start training.

Winning a gold medal at the 2000 Olympics was the high spot of my career. But I'm happier now than I ever was in my competing days. Now, I channel my energies into new challenges, such as supporting the Olympics - and I finally have balance in my life.

Marriage is hard work, and it's not all romance and flowers. I'm sure there are fantastic couples out there who have romance every day, but for us, it's always a struggle against time. We do have a "husband and wife" date night every week. We try to go to the cinema, but often it's just a case of Steve preparing a lovely meal once the children are in bed.

I'm an ambassador for Breast Cancer Care and this year will be my fifth time taking part in the Blenheim Palace Pink Ribbonwalk. It's an inspiring day, the route is gorgeous and it's great fun.

My mum is a perfect example of agelessness. She has blossomed in her fifties. Like me, she had a wake-up call when Gran died. She joined a gym for the first time at 50, and when I visited her recently, we went to Zumba classes together. She's even learning to ride a bike.

My motto these days is that I want to be fabulous every day. I won't save my favourite clothes for special occasions. Style isn't something I thought about in my twenties, but now I have the confidence to say that I feel glamorous.

Denise is an ambassador for Breast Cancer Care. To find out more, go to breastcancer