The first in a new series, former English discus record-holder Lesley Bryant explains what keeps her busy now she has retired from competing
Lesley Bryant won four English Schools discus titles under her maiden name of Lesley Mallin in the early 1970s and finished just outside the medals at the 1978 and 1982 Commonwealth Games. She set her 55.42m PB in an international against Sweden in 1980 and is a former English record-holder.
Despite having hung up her throwing shoes, the 57-year-old shows no signs of slowing down, leading a busy lifestyle which involves massaging Oxford University sportsmen and women, Cambridge University Ospreys and business people as well as delivering workshops for the Dame Kelly Holmes Legacy Trust and the Jaguar Academy of Sport.
Here she tells us more about her life after athletics…
I began working as a PE teacher in 1978, while still throwing internationally. After an injury-hit 1982, which included a prolapsed disc in my back shortly before the Commonwealth Games, I retired from athletics and had my children a few years after.
In terms of my athletics career, my only regret is that I wasn’t born a decade or more later, as I feel I could have thrown a lot further than I did if I had had the depth of knowledge and coaching support athletes have now. I mainly just trained myself and threw as far as I did off speed and a good technique.
In 1991 I was recruited into management as GB junior/under-23 team manager and from 1998-2006 I worked with the senior GB team. Team managing was great fun, hard work with ridiculously long hours, but I thoroughly enjoyed the adrenaline buzz and camaraderie in the team. In fact, I would go as far as to say that I enjoyed my team managing role more than being an athlete.
Athletics allows you to form amazing friendships and I still keep in touch with old friends such as Gladys Bird, Julie Asgill, Eric Shirley and Alison Rose, among others. We have subsequently worked together on On Camp with Kelly as well as the London Marathon. It’s great to see the old fellow competitors and the many athletes I managed throughout the season at competitions and have a gossip.
Athletes are strange creatures and sometimes “normal” people don’t understand the passion and odd behaviour patterns displayed by us. Once hooked, it’s a hard sport to leave. I was fortunate to work at the London Olympics as a last-minute recruit to the Saudi Arabian team in the role of soft-tissue therapist and advisor to their 800m athlete, who had run a marathon in April and was then informed she was doing the 800m at the Olympics! It was really interesting to be part of history which saw women from every Muslim country compete for the first time.
Having always been involved in sport, I qualified as a soft-tissue therapist in 2000 and have since worked with numerous individuals from a range of sports. I was a supervisor and soft-tissue therapist for the On Camp with Kelly scheme and every week would go to Loughborough and Birmingham Universities to massage athletes on the initiative.
I presently do some educational freelance work in clubs and schools, but also for Kelly Holmes Education (Jaguar Academy of Sport) and the Legacy Trust, where I deliver practical workshops about the importance of sports massage and foam rolling. This has given me the opportunity to marry my teaching skills with my soft tissue knowledge.
In her many roles as motivator and Education provider, I have found Kelly to be truly inspirational and admire what she is achieving in the world of sport and business.
On a weekly basis, I massage sportsmen and women from a variety of sports at Oxford University, as well as other clubs and businesses and private clients. Becoming a soft-tissue therapist has been a fantastic and rewarding route to take, as I get to meet many interesting individuals. Every day is different and because I am in control of my diary, within reason, I can work when I want.