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Monday, 18 December, 2000, 20:23 GMT
Denise's golden ambition
Denise celebrates Olympic gold in Sydney
Denise celebrates Olympic gold in Sydney
By BBC Sport Online's Tom Fordyce

You could forgive Denise Lewis for wanting to take things easy.

Most athletes coming off a year when they have won Olympic gold would be content to soak up the plaudits, kick back and watch the endorsement deals pile up.

It takes a special kind of sportsman to go again having won the biggest prize on offer, particularly in an event as physically demanding as the heptathlon.

Lewis has already been competing at the top level for eight years. In that time she's won Olympic, European and Commonwealth gold, two World Championship silvers and an Olympic bronze.

Denise with her gold
Denise with her gold
It's a haul unmatched by any other female British athlete, and one garnered against a background of constant injury.

But the desire to compete, and to be the best, remains as strong as it was before Sydney.

"I'm itching to get back," she admits.

"We've got the World Championships next year, and I've yet to win a gold there.

"Then the Commonwealths in 2002, in Manchester, will be the first domestic international event I'll have taken part in - so I have to do well there.

"Before I know it, it'll be the Olympics again. Four years can go very quickly. I still remember Atlanta."

Lewis, in London to record Question of Sport, has taken three months off from training, an unprecedented move for her.

"It'll help me stay positive and stay focused," she says.


It's only recently that the Olympic gold has finally started to sink in
  Denise Lewis
"It was part injuries, because my foot needed time to settle down, and also because I thought it was sensible to let my mind completely get over what had happened to me - and then start again, with new goals and a new vision.

"It's too easy to get complacent, think, hey, I'm Olympic champion - and so go into training at half-cock and not get the best out of it."

Athletes get injured notoriously easily. Finding a top British competitor who has not spent at least six miserable months on a treatment table is akin to discovering El Dorado in your attic.

In the last year alone, Lewis has had problems with her right calf, shoulder, foot and Achilles tendon. The last of these nearly cost her Olympic gold.

"I think some of it is the nature of the sport, but also because I'm very sensitive," she says.

"When things are going well, when I have a good block of training, I'm really influenced by that. The other side is that I can get injured too easily.

"I'm certain I'm not going to get away scot-free next year, but for now the foot is improving.

Denise at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year
Denise at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year
"The recent New York shopping trip didn't help, walking for hours carrying heavy bags - but apart from that it's better!

"I won't need surgery, which is obviously great, but I can't say the worries have completely passed.

"Come next year I may have to revisit the situation."

Lewis has been overwhelmed by the response since she returned from the Olympics.

The awards have been piling up - Sunday Times Sportswoman of the Year, British Athletics' Writers athlete of the year, voted athlete of the year by her fellow British competitors and second in the BBC Sports Personality Awards.

"Oh, it's been unbelievable," she says. "I simply couldn't have envisaged how touched people were.

"I've had letters and cards from people I don't even know. And it's an on-going thing - week in, week out, I'm still getting stuff.

"The champagne's definitely been flowing - certainly for the first six weeks after I got home.

"It's only recently that it's finally started to sink in how amazing those two days were for me.

"At the time things were happening so quickly. I remember the podium and the feeling of complete and utter pride to be standing there.

"Coming back it was a question of seeing everyone and telling the story, but over the past week or two I've managed to sit down and take stock.

"I watched the video footage, and that's when it finally hit me - Denise, you've achieved what you wanted to achieve for so many years.

"It still leaves me speechless."

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11 Oct 00 |  Athletics
Lewis targets Grand Slam
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