Changing the world … one challenge at a time

When athlete talks to athlete all kinds of truths are revealed. That was the goal of the #OneChallenge film series, produced by Virgin Money Giving and the Women’s Sport Trust. To be a spectator, fly-on-wall style, to the novelty of some of GB’s greatest female athletes being given the opportunity to discuss issues like body image, motivation, parenthood, ideal thigh size, sexism, online dating, winning, losing … and, in one memorable case, having plans to open a sausage dog hotel.

The over-arching theme of the one-to-one conversations was surmounting challenges, no matter how daunting the obstacles seem. So an Invictus athlete describes her on-going battle with PTSD which drove her to the brink of suicide, while a woman who lost her legs in the London 7/7 bombings now looks back at that horrific life-changing morning as something that propelled her to the positive experience of the Paralympics.

When possibly the country’s most powerful female sports administrator admits to obsessive masochism in her competitive Olympic career, it is evidence that all comic, tearful, intriguing, honest sporting life is here.

Collected among the contributors: 14 Olympic medals, 19 Paralympic medals, two World Cup victories, 117 England football caps, the Kauto Star Novice Chase at Kempton, 11 years of presenting Big Brother, eight Grand Slam tennis titles (within the family) and a damehood.

The revelations include one of the world’s greatest cricketers describing the moment she realised her international career was over: “Retirement made me as sad as a death.”

The Olympic medallist who could say: “I was actually proud of the way I looked. Mostly I was pleased I could walk into a room of five blokes, butt naked.”

The World Cup winner whose young, difficult life was transformed by her sport. “When I was young I was big and strong and probably felt very self-conscious about my body. Rugby was the place where I was accepted. Where being strong was a good thing.”

Also, Judy Murray predicts which England women’s player will be managing the Arsenal men’s team in 15 years’ time and why she believes women make fantastic coaches.

Sophie Christiansen, eight-time Paralympic dressage champion, discusses the perils of online dating for busy sportspeople with a disability. “Everyone’s on Tindr, but when do I tell them about my disability? Boys – teenage and even in their twenties – are not mature enough to see past it.”

Lizzie Kelly, the first British female jockey to win a Group One National Hunt race, on vaulting the sexist barriers in her sport. “Loads of people used to say, ‘Oh, that’s not going to happen, you can’t be a jockey, you’re a girl’. But, of course, that just made me want it a bit more.”

Davina McCall, a one-woman-call to sporting arms, describes the high of working out (sugar-free): “Sometimes I’m motivated by thinking someone’s in trouble and I have to go and save them. I’m out on the bike and I think I’ve got to go extra fast. Then I turn into Rocky!”

Greg Rutherford on the sleep-depriving, poleaxing “huge, huge shock” and joy of becoming a father and how it affected his athletics. Not to mention Strictly. Feelings seconded by British Paralympian discus and javelin record holder, Claire Harvey: “Beforehand I thought [a baby] won’t change me, I’ll do everything just the same, it’s just a question being organised … and then being left alone with him on the first night and going. ‘Oh crap’.”

Gail Emms, the 2004 Olympic badminton silver medallist, sums up the experience:

  “Between competing, training, traveling, resting, fretting … probably the last thing athletes do is talk to one another. Not fellow sportswomen from different sports anyway. The #OneChallenge series gave us that radical opportunity and we absolutely loved it. No subject was off limits – from love, loss, muscle, money, regret, joy and, believe it or not, opening a dachshund hotel – we pretty much covered it all. I’d love to thank Virgin Money Giving and the Women’s Sport Trust for making it happen and hope that everyone who watches the films gets a huge amount of entertainment and inspiration from them.”

With thanks to: Charlotte Edwards, Kate Richardson-Walsh, Gail Emms, Becky James, Kadeena Cox, Ellie Simmonds, Katherine Grainer, Maggie Alphonsi, Goldie Sayers, Judy Murray, Kelly Smith, Sophie Christiansen, Lizzie Kelly, Claire Harvey, Davina McCall, Asha Philip, Jenny Jones, Emily Evans, Martine Wright, Michelle Partington, and special guest male appearance, Greg Rutherford.

Film makers: Katie Macie and George Judd.

Footage and pictures: Dan Abraham, Jason Keeping, Sport Relief, Ryan Hogg, John Davis and Sean Clarke, GB Women’s Rafting team.

Composer: Chaz Smith.

To watch all the films click here.


Sue Mott. Sue’s latest articles.

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Women’s Sport Trust want to thank our partner Getty Images for some of the imagery of women in sport used on this site. Click here to view the editorial curation featuring the world’s top sportswomen in action and learn more about our partnership with Getty Images.

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