We’ve been fortunate enough to catch a few minutes with swimming legend, TV presenter and model Sharron Davies this week as she offers us an insight into her career; from teenage Olympian, to motivational speaking.
You were selected to represent Great Britain at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal at just 13 years of age – something that made you a household name almost overnight. At the time, did you fully understand the enormity of your selection at such a young age?
I don’t think you do when you’re that young - not in a bad way though. I was improving at such a rate everything was a new experience. But there was no pressure because there was no real expectation - just an amazing opportunity to learn so many new things.
How did you cope with the pressure of representing Great Britain at such a tender age and did you learn any important lessons from the experience?
As I say, I didn’t feel too much expectation, and I guess it didn’t enter my head that I wasn’t going to improve. I wasn’t in the running for medals, and my goal was to get personal bests, make my parents proud and learn for the next time, when I knew it would be very different. There is nothing like an Olympic Games, but the Commonwealths are the closest thing, so it was an invaluable experience just to know the scale of what was to come. It was wonderful.
Having won Silver in the 400m Medley at the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games, you retired from swimming aged 18 just to focus on your growing television profile and a career in modelling. What prompted this decision and why did you then decide to return to the pool 12 years later?
It didn’t happen that way. It was more that I needed a break after ten years of training 6 hours a day, no social life and no more than two weeks off in a year. In those days you couldn’t just take 6 months off to be normal. I took a scholarship to Berkeley University in San Francisco but had to swim to keep it, so I came home, and moved into a flat in London with gymnast friend Susanne Dando. I was offered a children’s TV show to host, a few modelling jobs - but it was a steep learning curve. I just gave things a go and learnt on the job. Because I was paid to do that I was branded a professional and therefore not allowed to compete any more, even though I tried for the Commonwealth Games in 82. Track and field had trust funds they could use to pay living expenses from, with Steve Ovett and Seb Coe racing each other for appearance money every other week end. Unfortunately, swimming didn’t! It was the times. Frustrating, but I believe it meant I was in the right place at the right time to get an opportunity sports woman hadn’t been granted before in the media world. So you have to see your cup as half full!
Are there any similarities between preparing to represent Great Britain and preparing to give a motivational speech?
It’s quite incredible how business mirrors sport ...things like preparation, training, planning, team work, confidence and commitment to name a few. I really enjoy showing the correlation between top level sport and successful business, including the many pitfalls and obstacles that each throw up.
What do you find most fulfilling about delivering a speech?
I enjoy meeting new people and I just want something to resonate with each person in the audience so that they can store that away and use it when the time comes. I also enjoy sharing all my many stories, and the love of my sport, and the Olympics.
Finally, which is the most nerve wracking? Competing in the Olympics, presenting in front of millions on live TV, or standing on stage to give an after dinner speech?
Gosh what a good question...they can all be a bit nerve racking but I can honestly say I love each one. However standing in front of 17,000 screaming people and millions on tv, wearing your countries colours, to compete in a race you have trained ten years for, which will only last only a few minutes and will change your life, one way or another that will or will not make all those sacrifices worth it.. or not, means that everything else that comes your way in life is never quite as scary! View Sharron Davies' profile to learn more about her career to date. To check Sharron's availability for your event simply complete our enquiry form or call us on 020 7251 8222.