Coach Mike Smith pays tribute to ‘golden girl of British athletics’

Renowned 400m coach among those to pay tribute to Olympic and Commonwealth medallist Donna Hartley-Wass who has died aged 58

Posted on June 10, 2013 by
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Donna Hartley (Mark Shearman)

The former coach of Olympic and Commonwealth Games medallist Donna Hartley-Wass has paid tribute to the ’golden girl of British athletics’ who died suddenly aged 58.

Described as ‘talented but also tremendously dedicated’, Hartley-Wass won both the 400m and 4x400m relay at the 1978 Commonwealth Games in Canada, before going on to win 4x400m relay bronze at the Moscow Olympic Games in 1980.

Reports state the runner, who went on to become a body builder, died as she sunbathed at her home in Yorkshire, with a post-mortem to establish the cause of death expected to take place early this week.

“Donna achieved an incredible amount, not just in athletics but in life itself,” said Smith, who coached Hartley throughout her career and also went on to guide 400m runners Roger Black and Iwan Thomas.

“My wife Joan and I are devastated,” continued Smith in a statement released through UK Athletics. “Donna was very talented but also tremendously dedicated – she never missed a training session.

“For a period in the mid 1970’s she carried the mantle for British women’s athletics, and was truly the golden girl of British athletics, with her long blond hair and fluid running style.”

Hartley-Wass, who competed for GB 37 times, was married to actor and comedian Bobby Knutt for 26 years following a previous marriage to fellow athlete Bill Hartley. She competed under her maiden name Donna Murray before becoming Donna Hartley.

Leaving his own tribute via Twitter, former European and Commonwealth champion Thomas said: “Really sad to hear about Donna Hartley.

“She was a lovely lady and amazing athlete,” he added. “Taken far too young #RIP.”

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