Denise Lewis

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Denise Lewis

Denise Lewis (born August 27, 1972, in West Bromwich, England) is a British athlete who specialises in the heptathlon. Her greatest triumph was winning the gold medal at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.


Early career

In her early years Lewis enjoyed singing in her local choir and studied ballet and tap-dancing. After joining Birchfield Harriers and competing in several events it became apparent that the Heptathlon should be her chosen event. Her first attempt at the event in 1989 was rewarded with a promising but not outstanding score of 5277 points.

In 1991 at the European Junior Championships, held at Thessaloniki Greece Lewis came a creditable fifth with 5476 points. Natalya Sazanovich representing Belarus took the gold medal here and was to become a long time rival in future years.


The major breakthrough came at the 1994 Commonwealth Games in British Columbia, Canada where Lewis took gold, with 6325 points, ahead of the Australian Jane Flemming (silver) and Catherine Bond-Mills (bronze) of the host country.

At the 1995 World Championships in Gothenburg Sweden Lewis could only manage a lowly 7th place, with an average score of 6299, behind winner Ghada Shouaa of Syria.

At the 1996 Summer Olympics held in Atlanta, Georgia, USA she claimed bronze, her first Olympic medal, once again behind Ghada Shouaa (gold) and Natalya Sazanovich silver.
Lewis also competed in the long jump at this games jumping 6.33 m but not qualifying for the final.

In the 1997 World Championships in Athina Greece Lewis managed to improve on her Gothenburg attempt by taking silver, 6654 points, behind the Germany's Sabine Braun, 6739 points, who had led from the first event and despite a comeback by Lewis on day two. They were joined on the rostrum by Lithuanian Nazaroviene Remigija

Although not scoring highly Lewis tasted gold again, with 6513 points, a year later at the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia ahead of Jane Jamieson of Australia and Joanne Henry of New Zealand. Not one to be happy with one gold this year Lewis also took 1st place in the European Athletics Championship, with 6559 points, pushing long time rival Natalya Sazanovich into third behind Urszula Wlodarczyk of Poland.

In the Seville 1999 World Championships heptathlon, Eunice Barber took a 58 point lead after the first event the 100 m hurdles clocking a personal best of 12.89 seconds. Another personal best of 1.93 m in the next, the high jump extended her lead to 185 despite Lewis also recording a personal best of 1.87 m. Another P.B. for Lewis in the third event, the shot put followed with 16.12m and with Barber struggling in at only 12.37 m the lead changed to give the Brit a 35 point lead. The final event on day one was the 200 m and Barber turned the tables again to hold a single point lead overnight.

Day two started with the long jump with Barber out jumping her rival by 22 cm to take a 73 point lead. Another P.B. of 49.88 m for Barber in the Javelin extended this to a massive 120 points. In the final event the 800 m Barber took the bell in front and eventually beat Lewis by just over a second to take the gold by 137 points with a personal best total of 6861 points with Lewis safely in second by a further 224 points to third placed Ghada Shouaa.

Despite injury worries at the beginning of the season the new millennium got off to a positive start for the 27 year old and on July 20 she broke her own Commonwealth record by 95 points recording a total of 6831, in Talence France. Now she could look forward to her main goal, the Olympics in September with great confidence but come the time for the event she was wearing strapping to protect a calf injury.

2000 Olympics

Saturday September 23 was the date of the start of the 2000 Summer Olympics heptathlon. In the first event Lewis recorded 13.23 seconds for the 100 m hurdles to lie second behind the reigning world champion Eunice Barber who had finished in 12.97, the astonishing news was the withdrawal of reigning Olympic champion Ghada Shouaa who had pulled out after only 20 metres of her heat. This have increased her confidence but after a dreadful high jump of only 1.75 m, some way off her personal best, she free fell down the leader board to 8th place some 152 points behind Barber who had increased her lead. Fighting back in the next event the shot put recording 15.55 m Lewis leap frogged over Barber whose 11.27 m saw her now lying 8th with Natalya Sazanovich taking the lead ahead of Lewis in 2nd by just 30 points who herself lay a mere 45 points ahead of the former world champion Sabine Braun. The final event of day one was less sensational with the only major turnaround being the jump from 6th to 2nd by Natalya Roschupkina of Russia with Sabine Braun sliding down to 6th.

The scoreboard at the finish of day one being:

  1. Natalya Sazanovich BLR 3903;
  2. Natalya Roshchupkina RUS 3872;
  3. Denise Lewis GBR 3852;
  4. Urszula Wlodarczyk POL 3805;
  5. Yelena Prokhorova RUS 3771;
  6. Sabine Braun GER 3770;
  7. Eunice Barber FRA 3707;
  8. Karin Specht-Ertl GER 3697

Day two started with a close long jump Yelena Prokhorova landing marginally further than both Sazanovich and Lewis. Roshchupkina's stay near the top had been brief as she fell back down to 8th and an clearly struggling Eunice Barber having to withdraw after event five.

Event six was the javelin and Lewis pulled out a throw of 50.19 m and with her closest rivals some way further back she leapt into 1st with Sazanovich 63 points behind in 2nd with Prokhorova in 3rd a further 83 points away.

With just the final leg left, the 800 m Lewis knew exactly what she had to do. In far from ideal conditions she kept her eye on the distances between the main contenders but Prokhorova pulled away to win the heat convincingly and when Lewis crossed the line behind Sazanovich also no one was quite sure who had won. Standed exhausted after two days of hard fought competition the athletes had to wait for the stadium announcer to declare that Denise of Great Britain was the winner to join all of the other Olympic medalists in athletics (women) with Yelena Prokhorova finishing second a mere four points ahead of Natalya Sazanovich.

2004 Olympics

Lewis came into defend her Olympic heptathlon in 2004 carrying injuries, but aiming for a bronze medal but had to pull out injured. Team-mate and training partner Kelly Sotherton took bronze.

Awards and recognition

Alongside Kelly Holmes and Paula Radcliffe, Lewis is one of the current "golden girl" of British athletics and has twice, 1998 and 2000, been runner up in the BBC Sports Personality of the Year. In 1993 Lewis was put forward as a candidate in the BBC Midlands great midlander of all-time award but lost out to eventual winner Reginald Mitchell the inventor of the Supermarine Spitfire.

Her Commonwealth Record of 6831 points set on July 30 in Talence, France is currently 22nd in the all time list.

Personal bests

  • 100 m hurdles - 13.13 seconds
  • 200 m - 24.10 seconds
  • 800 m - 2 min 12.20 seconds
  • long jump - 6.69 m
  • high jump - 1.87 m
  • shot put - 16.12 m
  • javelin - 51.13 m
  • heptathlon - 6831 points

Strictly Come Dancing

In 2004, Lewis took part in the BBC dancing competition, Strictly Come Dancing. She was partnered alongside professional dancer, Ian Waite and in the first few weeks scored the most amount of points with the judges. She eventually got to the final and became runner up to actress Jill Halfpenny. After this, she and the two other partners from the final, got to dance at the Royal Variety Performance.

About 10 days after competing in the final of Strictly Come Dancing, Denise and Ian competed again in the Strictly Come Dancing Champion of Champions Special, where the finalists from both series of the contest, competed against each other. Denise received the most points from the judges, however she once again became the runner up of the contest, as Jill Halfpenny won overall.


Family life

Lewis's partner is the Belgian sprinter Patrick Stevens and they have a young daughter named Lauren. In the beginning of 2005 the couple split up.

See also

External links

Template:Footer Olympic Champions Heptathlon Women
Template:Footer Olympic Champions Great Britain Women


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