Olympic relay medallist Jennifer Stoute talks to Emily Moss about her career, starring in Gladiators and working for the management agency Stellar
After setting up Stellar Athletics Management with ex-partner and British 200m record-holder John Regis and also been involved with founding the Driven Woman network, Jennifer Stoute’s first priority remains spending time with her two daughters, England Athletics under-15 indoor 200m champion Alicia, aged 14, and Renèe, 10.
“I typically wake up, take the girls to school and head to the office,” says Stoute. By “office”, she is referring to the management agency for athletes she co-founded with Regis in 2000. Stoute has identified and signed numerous athletes over the years and Stellar Athletics is part of the Stellar Group, which is one of the biggest football agencies, which carried out Real Madrid’s record signing deal of Gareth Bale. Stoute ensures the company takes care of the athletes and provides them with the service they require, as well as looking after her girls.
“It’s a lot of work,” she says. “Managing expectations of athletes is hard, as they face an emotional journey. I do the payments, deal with the financial side, organise travel, negotiate the commercial deals for the 64 athletes on our books. It makes you realise the hectic nature of track and field today.”
Together with Stoute and Regis, Ramon Clay runs the overseas department, dealing with the USA, Dave Scott is the negotiator as the sports agent and Cayley Thatcher is the office manager. “We each have our own role within the company,” says Stoute. “John is the hard-line businessman and I just kind of smooth things over.”
Indeed, Stoute sees her main “job” as that of being a mum, so she leaves the office at 4pm to be there as the girls finish school. Clearly she is doing a good job in her “mum” role, as Alicia is fast becoming one of the country’s top sprinters in her age group, having gone sub-25 for 200m indoors earlier this year, as well as remaining focused on her schoolwork as she approaches her GCSE years, while Renèe will be taking the 11-plus later this year.
“I will never be a sprinter again, but I do want to feel good. I appreciate a fit person and looking after yourself”
However, Stoute does not want her background in the sport to put additional pressure on her daughters. “Having the girls involved in athletics is special,” she says. “We dragged them everywhere when they were young, so it is nice that they really love it. Alicia has surprised us. She has her dad’s strength of character.
“However, John and I know the journey of track and field and we are around so many other athletes that we are happy to take a back seat and let others take control of her. When I’m with the girls, we speak about fun things.”
Stoute also emphasises that athlete management can be a 24-hour job, particularly during the season, so she does not put up her feet after leaving the office at 4pm, as she often works from home.
Stoute also tries to keep as fit as possible, although it is a far cry from her time as a sprinter, which saw her claim Commonwealth 4x400m gold and 4x100m silver in 1990 and 1990 European 4x400m bronze in addition to her 1992 Olympic relay medal. “I will never be a sprinter again, but I do want to feel good,” said Stoute, pictured above, right, in Barcelona. “I appreciate a fit person and looking after yourself.”
Such is the 51-year-old’s appreciation of feeling good for your age, Stoute was a co-founder of the Driven Woman network, the aim of which is to promote awareness among women of who they can be and encourage them to value themselves, instigate change and explore their true potential.
“It is an amazing organisation,” says Stoute. “After being really involved the last three years since we founded it, I have now taken a back seat from it temporarily, as it took up my evenings and, while my girls are teenagers, it is important to be there for them.
“I can pick it up more again in the future. I feel there is a gap in the market in relation to helping mature women appreciate their age and that is something I would like to explore further. Maybe I can also do some more TV work.”
“I was too scared of the 400m and should have tried it more. I needed to feel stronger about myself, as that is what it takes to really reach your potential”
Having been a regular face on TV screens on Saturday evenings, it is clear that Stoute really loved her time as Rebel in the gameshow Gladiators.
“It was the highlight of my life,” explains Stoute affectionately. “After being a sprinter, there was something in me that was unfulfilled and Gladiators gave me that buzz I needed and was kind of like a transition between elite sport and living a normal life. It allowed me to see what life was like in normal society, while still having a lot of fun in a physically competitive environment.
“When I was offered the job, I was initially unsure whether I wanted to jump around in lycra. However, it was like going to play in a big funpark and got me ready for the rest of my life.”
After that, Stoute starred in the Gladiator movie and considered being a stunt woman for a short while, before she moved on to Stellar.
Aside from her time on Gladiators, Stoute’s best memory is her Olympic relay bronze in 1992. “Standing on the podium with Sally Gunnell, who had won the individual 400m hurdles title, was really special,” reveals Stoute, who still keeps in contact with many of her GB team-mates today. “I see Sally at races, as her son Finn is racing now and I have meet-ups with Denise Lewis. Also, social media makes it so much easier to stay in contact.”
Looking back, with her life experience firmly in tow, Stoute would do many things differently as an athlete. She reflects: “I was too scared of the 400m and should have tried it more. I needed to feel stronger about myself, as that is what it takes to really reach your potential.
“I don’t think I realised quite how good I was. I understand now that it is about believing in yourself and your qualities and being the best that you can. It is a magical thing, looking back when you have the experience and outlook that you were perhaps missing at the time.”