Kelly Holmes has experienced everything in an amazing career - injuries, more injuries, Olympic gold medals and becoming a Dame.
Even before she retired from athletics, Holmes helped to uncover the stars of the future by mentoring a group of young female middle distance runners.
She is convinced some of them have the potential to star at the London Olympics in 2012.
Here she tells BBC Sport Academy what it takes to become a champion.
Ultimately, if you are going to be a champion you've probably already got it within you.
Mental strength is everything.
You can have a lot of athletes, all of a similar standard in terms of ability, but only the ones with the head for it will succeed.
You need to be totally focused and be ready to get through it no matter what.
I have seen many different things in different athletes.
I got the girls I am mentoring to write down what their target was for one year, five years and 10 years
Some I believe have got the natural ability and the head to achieve.
Some have the natural ability but need to start training or they are going to be left behind.
And there are some who will probably make a good standard of athlete but probably will not break through into the world class.
It is important to remember that not everyone is going to make it. There can only be one Olympic champion at any one sport at any one Olympics, and only three medallists.
But I had a dream and I never gave up on it.
I have always given everything to achieve my dreams and I have always fought for it. Had I not, it would have been hell.
But the other side is that experience proves a lot to people. If they can get through the bad times then they are more likely to come through and make the most of the good times.
You need to have a huge amount of determination to be an athlete.
Hard work can bring big rewards - but success is not guaranteed
Being in the Army for nine and a half years taught me a lot.
When I was 17, I was a very committed runner and a junior international and I loved athletics, but I had always dreamed of being in the Army from the age of 14.
I knew I would join at 18. In the back of my mind I still wanted to be an Olympic champion, but I wanted to have a life and learn some skills, grow up and become somebody.
So I gave up my athletics to join the Army, but I maintained my fitness levels and was able to come back into it.
Setting yourself goals is vital for achieving success. You need a plan.
With the girls I am mentoring, I got them to write down what their target was for one year, five years and 10 years.
I will keep them and see what they actually achieve by the time they are 25.
The focus is 2012, but there are no guarantees in our sport, no guarantees of medallists. Who knows what will happen?