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Athletics legend Derek Redmond on how to stay motivated to succeed


Derek Redmond is an athletics legend, not just for his Gold medals as a sprinter. During his career, he held the British record for the 400 metres sprint, and was part of the team who took gold in the 4×400 metres relay at the World Championships and European Championships. At the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona he was struck with a hamstring injury. Instead of quitting, Derek continued and crossed the finish line.

In this exclusive interview for PA Life, courtesy of the Olympic Speakers Agency, Derek reflected on this moment and talked about the importance of staying motivated to succeed through the darkest times.

As an athlete, what is the hardest physical challenge you faced?

“The challenge of having to realise that my athletics career was over and go from one sport to another. I got into basketball and then into rugby and a few other sports along the way. That was physical and mental, I would say. Physically, Barcelona wasn’t my finest hour, pulling a hamstring in the semi-final of the Olympics and deciding to get up and finish.

“One of the things that was quite physically and mentally tough was knowing that you’re going to do a training session and that it will absolutely break you. When I was in the States, we used to do this Hill session and the Hill was 450 metres from the bottom to the top. It was a windy road, and it was a killer. During that session, you either threw up or if you were really unlucky, you would pass out because you just ran yourself into exhaustion.

“That was tough physically. But mentally, what was even tougher was knowing that you’re going back next Monday to do the same thing again. You knew you were going to be pushed and you knew you were going to hurt at the end of it. You know, you were going to throw up, pass out and feel like crap for the rest of the day… but you still did it.”

During periods of hardship, what helped you on staying motivated?

“I always refer to those times as ‘dark times.’ The reason I use the phrase ‘dark times’ is because we can always shed some light on those dark times. Halfway through the year, all the way up until 1991, I was injured. I didn’t compete, tried to train, would break down, had to have operations, go for all the rehab treatment, get back into training, break down, have another operation, go for all the rehabs.

“It was a bit like Groundhog Day. I was doing the same things over and over and over for a couple of years. Lots of people always used to ask me, what kept you going? Why didn’t you give up? Believe you me, there was a voice in my head telling me to give up. The main thing that kept me going through those times was the belief that if I could stay healthy, I could be one of the best in the world.

“It was that self-belief of what I could do. My opposition wasn’t the competition, my competition was my own body staying healthy. I always say; God help the rest of the world if I stay in shape for a couple of seasons, they won’t know what’s hit them! You have to believe in your heart of hearts that you can achieve whatever it is that you’ve set out to do. You’ve got to hang on to that one bit of rope that’s going to help you walk towards the end of that tunnel, that self-belief.”

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

“If we step away from sports, I’ve had a few different businesses before. We set up a company manufacturing gym, and high performance fitness equipment many years ago, and we started from scratch and became very successful in a two-and-a-half-year period. Then went from the height of success to the company going bankrupt and me going bankrupt personally, losing everything and having to start again and build myself back up to pretty much where I am now.

“That’s something that I’m proud of because when I went bankrupt and lost everything, I had no idea what was next for me. But the one thing that I always believed is that I would be successful in life. I had no idea what that was going to be in. It turns out, 25 years later, here I am as an international speaker, best-selling author, and award-winning speaker. I’m pretty proud of that.”

This exclusive interview with Derek Redmond was conducted by Chris Tompkins.