From Katarina Johnson-Thompson To Dina Asher-Smith, 6 Women Athletes Whose Words Make Us Dream Big

"The low moments have helped me come back and look at myself. This has been my dream."

What a week it has been for Britain’s female athletes.

Dina Asher-Smith made history when she became the first British woman sprinter to win a world title on Wednesday, taking home gold for 200m at the IAAF World Athletics Championships. The historic win came days after her 100m silver World Championships race.

Then, last night, Katarina Johnson-Thompson won her first world championship heptathlon gold, beating the previous British record set by Jessica Ennis-Hill.

The pair are just two of Britain’s shining athletics stars, following a long history of strong women dominating on and off the track.

To celebrate their achievements, we take a look back at some of the most iconic quotes from women in recent athletics history. Be warned: they’ll inspire you to dream big.

On pushing through set-backs...

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Johnson-Thompson’s rise to bagging her first world title has not been smooth sailing. She missed out on medals at previous championships, as well as a podium position at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

“This is the result of so many attempts of trying to perform on this stage,” Johnson-Thompson told BBC Sport after her recent win. “The low moments have helped me come back and look at myself. This has been my dream.”

But she’s not ready to stop just yet. “It has been such a long road. I am just happy that I’m coming into my best in these two big years. I just want more.”

On staying humble...

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Dina Asher-Smith is hotly tipped to be the Britain’s biggest star at next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, but following her recent win, she explained why it’s important for her to keep her feet on the ground.

“I’m an athlete and a competitor and I want to see how fast I can go, and if I can push myself into being one of the best athletes of all time,” Asher-Smith told the Guardian.

“But I’m going to approach the Olympics as though I haven’t won here. Every year I assess my races – where I can improve or get a bit stronger or quicker to keep pushing where I can go as an athlete. I think that’s how you keep being great irrespective of your results.”

On looking after your mental health...


She became the first British woman to win two Olympic Golds at the same Games in 2004 and since then, Dame Kelly Holmes has secured herself as a national treasure for her tireless work raising mental health awareness.

The retired athlete has spoken openly about her history of self-harming as a means of coping with the pressure of athletics, her sporting injuries, and subsequent depression. Now, she wants other athletes – and the public – to look after their minds as well as their bodies.

“I think it’s important for me to talk about my journey and how I reached being double Olympic champion despite all of the other issues, to hopefully give people hope and inspiration that you can still do things,” Holmes told HuffPost UK earlier this year.

“Life is life, isn’t it? Everyone has their up and down moments, their highs and their lows. As a person in the public eye, I can say that and hopefully get the message out to more people.”

On retaining your dreams after becoming a mum...

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Just 15 months after giving birth, Jessica Ennis-Hill won the heptathlon world title in Beijing in 2015 – her third world championship gold medal in a row. Then at the Rio Olympics in 2016, she came away with a silver medal.

Now retied, she used her comeback to encourage other women to pursue their dreams, even if they decide to become parents.

“I think now that I am a mother I look at other mums like [fellow athlete] Jo Pavey and just mums that go back to work and work incredibly hard and I have so much admiration and appreciation for how hard it is,” she said after her comeback win.

“So I hope that I am an inspiration for other mums that you can do it and go out and do both really well.”

On redefining age...

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The legendary Jo Pavey has joked that she’s “famous for being old”, but she refuses to let preconceptions about age inhibit her professional progress.

In 2014, she became the oldest woman ever to claim gold at a European Championships when she won the 10,000m aged 40 and now, she has her sights set on the 2020 Olympic Games. She’ll be 46. If she competes, she’ll become just the second British track and field athlete in history to compete in six Olympic games.

“I don’t want people to think I am complacent, or that it is going to be easy. I am already 45 years old,” she said earlier this year. “But I feel like it is something which could be done. There are loads of young girls coming through but it is always good to try and you never know until you try. You have to enjoy the challenge.”

On maintaining a sense of humour...

Paula Radcliffe celebrates completing the 2015 Virgin Money London Marathon.
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Paula Radcliffe celebrates completing the 2015 Virgin Money London Marathon.

She holds the world record and won the London Marathon in 2002, 2003 and 2005. In November 2004 she won the New York Marathon and in 2005 she took the gold medal at the World Championships in Helsinki for the same distance.

But an unscheduled toilet break on the side of the road – televised to millions around the world – during the 2005 London marathon threatened to overshadow Paula Radcliffe’s many achievements.

The star has since laughed off the incident, saying when like gives you shit*, it pays to have a sense of humour.

“Never set limits, go after your dreams, don’t be afraid to push the boundaries,” she said. “And laugh a lot – it’s good for you!”