Iwan Thomas & Mel C

Iwan Thomas & Mel C

Iwan Thomas lit up the athletics track during his career, winning medals at all of the major championships.

Later this year he will be taking on Mel C in the Great North vs. South Challenge as they aim to make as much money for charity as possible; but are the north or the south more charitable?

We caught up with Iwan to chat about the challenge he faces, getting back into shape as well as the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

- You are going to be taking part in the Great South Run as part of the Great North vs. South Challenge so can you tell me a little bit about it?

Myself and Mel C, she is from the north and I am from the south, have this challenge and we are going to have ten members of the public each and through JustTextGiving with Vodafone we are going to see ho can raise the most money for charity.

She is going to run the Great North Run and I am going to run the Great South Run; I am probably going to run the Great North with her for a bit of company. With the members of the public we are going to get together for a training session and see who can raise the most of charity.

I always run for MacMillan Cancer Support but this is the first time that I have had a team challenge. It is going to be a big challenge as Mel C is very popular but I am looking forward to it.

- You are going to be going head to head with Mel C, so how confident are you that the south are more charitable?

To be honest, I think northerners are very friendly people and so I might be up against a bit of a challenge here. I am going to try my best and hopefully my team are going to get behind it as well.

At the end of the day, as long as both sides raise money and awareness of their charity it can only be a good thing. I am looking forward to it, to be honest.

- How is your training for the event going?

My race is not until October so I have only just got back into training, I have had a month off. I am not mega fit at the moment but I am confident that by October I will be fit enough. I am slowly building my training up; I will probably go for a run tonight.

- If people want to get involved how can they do so?

It is simple. If you want to help my charity text ‘Iwan74’ and a 100% of that money will go to that charity. It is through JustTextGiving and all that, as I say, will go to charity.

Hopefully I will get out there with Mel and we will raise some good money. The number you need to send your text to is 70070.

- Apart from training for this event what else have you been up to recently?

For me, this time of year I do a lot of hosting of athletics events; so I am at the Anniversary Games at the weekend at the Olympic Park. I was also there last weekend hosting the National Lottery Park Run.

So it’s just television stuff really; I have been doing stuff for The One Show and other bits and pieces here and there. I was really busy last year with the Olympics and the Paralympics and I have been building on that.

- We are a year on from the huge success that was the Olympic and Paralympic Games, so what was it like being in the middle of all that?

It was amazing. I was envious and I would rather have been ten years younger. Last year Britain was just an amazing place to be during the summer.

It is good to see that success continuing with Wimbledon, Chris Froome in the Tour de France and the Ashes; it seems, as a nation, Britain is doing really well at the moment. I think that last year provided such a feel good factor around London 2012.

Probably more so for the Paralympics because it did help raise awareness of not only the fantastic Paralympic athletes that we have got, but the different events that are available to people; there are so many random Paralympic sports that a lot of people will never have even heard of before. So I think that London 2012 did more good for Paralympic sport than the Olympics.

- That is what I was going to touch on next. You have done a lot of work with Paralympics and this is a Games where the Paralympics was the equal of the Olympics. So I was wondering how you felt that had impacted on Paralympic sport in this country?

In my eyes it showed people that you can do something. There are a lot of people out there who were born with a disability, been in an accident or an injured service man or woman, and the Paralympics said ‘look there is a sport for everyone out there. Try and find what suits you and give it a go’.

I think that is the sort of message that the Paralympics spread to everybody. In no way at all do I have pity on any Paralympians as I just look at them with admiration and think ‘good for you’. In life you can sit back and feel sorry for yourself or you can get out there and try and do something in the world; I think that the Paralympics really did do that.

Maybe people would have looked away if they saw a disabled in the supermarket but the Paralympics really did break down those barriers. All of a sudden you might go up to that person and ask ‘what is your name?’ and ‘What is your story?’

Having worked with all of our Paralympic athletes for many years, they are fine to talk about why they are in a wheelchair or what event they do.

Like you said, I think that the Paralympics, for once, was on par with the Olympics; every other time I have seen the Paralympics on TV the stands have been empty and they have not had much coverage. I think that London 2012 did a fantastic job.

- The World Athletics Championships are now just around the corner so how do you think Team GB are going to fair a year on from their Olympic success?

Hopefully we can build on last year. There are a lot of young athletes coming through at the moment. Athletics is one of those sports where you can have a household name that has had a few injuries, and while that is a real shame it does give an opportunity for a youngster to come through.

We have a lot of talent out there and hopefully we can build upon the success of last year and have a good championships.

- Who do you think the medal favourites are going to be? And are there any surprises potentially in the British squad?

I think the main surprise is James Dasaolu, who ran so fast in the 100m. He is an athlete who has shown promise for many years and not really done it, but this year he is running amazing times.

So for someone like James it could be a good championships for him if he can hold his nerve as he could make the final and maybe get up among the Jamaicans and get a medal. So for someone like him he has got to take his opportunity.

- There was a major message of legacy at the London 2012 Games so what sort of shape do you think British athletics is in at the moment? And so you think it is benefiting from that message?

I think so. I think in terms of newcomers coming through that could be a few years away; anybody who already does sport will have been inspired but if you are talking about a young kid who watching London 2012 and wants to become an athlete, it is going to be a few years away.

You can’t help but be inspired by what we saw last summer and we showed as a nation that we not only have great athletes but amazing facilities and people can put on great events.

I think, without a doubt, that legacy will come to the fore in a couple of year’s time. It was just an amazing time last year.

- People will know you best for the success that you had on the athletics track so can you sum up that period when you look back on it now?

I had a lot of injuries so my career was cut short; I was quite unlucky. But the 1998 season was my best season - when you are running well you take things for granted and you think that you are going to run forever. It wasn’t until 1999 and 2000 that I started getting back injuries and I took a step back and appreciated what I did.

Two weekends ago it was the sixteen year anniversary of my British record - it is amazing that it still stands - so things like that make me feel really proud.

But it also reminds me that I was around when we had some fantastic 400m runners, and if I hadn’t had that domestic rivalry from Mark Richardson, Rodger Black, Jamie Baulch and Du'aine Ladejo, I probably wouldn’t have run as fast as I did. I have fond memories of my career.

- You have been away from the track for a few years but is there anything about it that you still miss?

I miss everything about it, to be honest. All the things that I use to curse when I was an athletes such as the training, being sick, the nerves of racing and the travelling, when it is taken away from you you really do appreciate how much you enjoyed it.

I am actually thinking about getting into track training; I am forty next year and the world record is 47.8 seconds for a forty year old over 400m and I am half tempted to have a go at that.

You are actually the first person that I have told about that. I am not going to start running properly again but I am thinking about training a little bit.

- Kids have been inspired to take up all sorts of sports after last year, but if someone wanted to get into athletics what advice would you give them?

I think it is one of the easiest sports to get into as most tracks will have a club night on either a Tuesday or a Thursday. All you need is pair of trainers, a pair of shorts and a t-shirt and just get down there. I think just set realistic goals.

I remember Mo Farah winning the London mini-marathon when he was about eleven, I gave him his medal and said to him ‘you have got a lot of talent, you should stick with it’. Look at him now; he is the best distance runner in the world.

I think someone like Mo, or any athlete that has made it, is the proof that if you work really hard and you are patient then you can do it.

- The sport was under a bit of a cloud earlier this month as Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell both having positive drug tests. So how damaging is this for the sport?

It is really damaging, and I am sad that it has happened. But the more that I have thought about it the more I think it is a good thing as it just shows that we are catching the cheats.

Unfortunately they are high profile athletes and it is damaging, but the message it gives is ‘anybody who is tempted to cheat you are going to get caught’. I just hope that the youngsters coming through don’t think that they have to cheat to be the best in the world.

99.9% of athletes never cheat in their live and it is just a few ignorant few that are ruining the sport. While it is damaging right now, I think in the long run it is a good thing that the drug cheats are getting caught. The message being sent out is ‘you can’t cheat’ and ‘there are no short-cuts’.

- As you say it does send out the message that the drug testing system is working. But is there anything more that you feel needs to be done to stamp this out completely?

I think, just educate the youngsters to let them know that you don’t need to cheat to get to the top. There are many man athletes who don’t cheat; it’s the wrong image to have that you need to cheat to be the best, because you don’t.

I had loads of injuries throughout my career and it does sadden me that I only had two or three really good years. But I am still the British record holder and I did that through blood, sweat and tears. It just shows that if you work hard enough that you can do it.

Unfortunately in any walk of life people will do bad things and try and take shortcuts. But the drug testing methods are getting better and if you do take those short-cuts then you will get caught.

- You have talked about getting back onto the track later this year, so have ever thought about going into full time coaching?

No, not really. I have massive respect for any coach as I know how much work they put in behind the scenes to get their athlete to be at the peak of their fitness. For me, I am really busy with all of my television work and I am really enjoying the work that I am doing.

I more than happy to give athletes advice; I have always said to all of the current 400m runners ‘if you ever want any advice give me a call’. I would love to be a mentor to some athletes but I don’t have the time at the moment to be a day in day out coach.

- Finally what is next for you going through the rest of this year?

I had better get ready to beat Mel C, I need to get fit and get ready to raise some money. That is going to be my big target for October.

At this year’s Great South Run Iwan Thomas is raising money for Macmillan Cancer using his Vodafone JustTextGiving code IWAN74. To sign up for a free personalised JustTextGiving code to help with your fundraising visit www.JustTextGiving.com'

by for www.femalefirst.co.uk
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