In a unique and emotional episode, I had the chance to talk to Kelly Sotherton, who recently received a retroactively awarded Olympic medal for the 4x400m relay, a full decade after the Beijing Games. Kelly shared the rollercoaster of emotions that came with this long-overdue recognition, highlighting not just her own feelings but also the broader context of cheating in sports.
We discussed how she transitioned to 400m running performance after specializing in heptathlon and her mix of sadness and hope concerning the state of athletics today. She applauded athletes who have the courage to speak out against doping and cheating, recounting the poignant moment when her 4x400m team was finally awarded their medals.
As we spoke, Kelly described the mixed feelings that accompanied her retirement—bitterness and heartbreak, but also a sense of accomplishment. She credited her coaches and the new training approaches that led to her medals in the World Championships and allowed her to call out athletes involved in doping.
The conversation also covered the complex emotions around competing against athletes who would later be exposed as dopers, and the negative impact this had on her own performances. While Kelly sees the retrospective awarding of medals as a form of justice, she hopes that future generations won’t have to experience these delayed acknowledgments. She feels fortunate to have her moment recognized, acknowledging others like Goldie Sayers who are still waiting for theirs.
We also talked about how our collaborative coaching work led her to explore her 400m potential, even as we were focusing on her 300m ability. This rounded approach not only led to her 4x400m success but also imparted lessons she’s applying in her current role as a coach and leader.
Overall, the conversation offered a deep and poignant look into the life of a three-time Olympic medalist, her struggles and triumphs, and her continued impact on the sport as an advocate for fairness and integrity.
1:00 Introduction to Kelly Sotherton and the award of 4x400m medal from the Beijing Olympics alongside Marilyn Okoro, Christine Ohuruogu and Nicola Sanders
3:15 Background of how we developed 400m running performance from heptathlon training
5:25 Sadness and hope. Sadness that athletes and countries resorted to cheating. Hope that the authorities are punishing athletes retrospectively
6:13 Athletes taking the courage to speak out against cheating
6:37 The moment the women’s 4x400m team received their medals
7:29 Finally got the medal
8:00 Heptathlon medal still to come
8:20 Mixed emotions, when Kelly retired there was a sense of bitterness and being heartbroken but being reflective that she did everything to get her in the best shape possible
9:10 After Athens 2004 Olympics, her coach Charles van Comenee left the UK, Kelly pulls together a group of coaches
10:20 The running begins to plateau – where the two of us started to work together
11:30 The fact finding mission at a training camp in Portugal
12:00 The results start to come. Kelly medals at the Worlds Championships. Kelly calls out Lyudmila Blonska, someone who already cheated. The gamble of investing in a new approach to running
13:00 Focussed on speed to renew Kelly’s running ability and my transition to the coaching team
14:10 Background to Kelly calling out other athletes as dopers
15:23 How Kelly felt about competing against athletes. Blonska and Chernova effects Kelly performance
17:20 The headline is injustice, sympathy for missing out on the moment, loss of earnings – but competing against dopers did negatively affect her performance
18:39 Kelly’s hopes that we don’t see these retrospective medal awards
19:00 Sport won’t forget athletes like Kelly as victims of cheaters
19:45 Many athletes haven’t received their rightful medals, so Kelly feels fortunate to have the moment. Goldie Sayers still waiting
20:45 How Kelly and I came across the 400m while focussing on developing the 300m ability
22:00 Top Britain in 2008 indoor season and 8th in World – leading to a curiosity in her 400m ability
22:55 Not getting distracted by the 400m. A trial of whether Kelly’s ability could contribute to the 4x400m team, running 51s split
24:00 In shape for heptathlon – but capable of a great 400m performance. A pivotal 300m trial that impresses the 4x400m coaches
25:10 8th fastest GB 400m split of all time
26:15 A lesson in rounded training that can help overall performance
27:00 Reflecting on what could be but blighted by injury, trying different training methods to keep Kelly fit when injured
28:25 Kelly applies the lessons learned from her career to athletes now
29:35 Heptathlon medal still to come, how Kelly focuses on the individual medal having more meaning
30:43 Three time Olympic medallist
31:20 The consequences of being cheated
32:10 Kelly being active as a coach, team leader, establishing the athlete commission, “What are you doing about it?” Make it happen, make it better
Follow Kelly on Twitter and Instagram @kellysotherton