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Denise Lewis
Denise Lewis (cropped).jpg
Personal information
Born (1972-08-27) 27 August 1972 (age 51)
West Bromwich, England
Height 5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)
Country  Great Britain
Sport Athletics
Event(s) Heptathlon
Club Birchfield Harriers
Coached by Charles van Commenee, Darrell Bunn
Retired 2005
Achievements and titles
Personal best(s) 6,831 pts (2000)
Medal record
Women's athletics
Representing  Great Britain
Olympic Games
Gold 2000 Sydney Heptathlon
Bronze 1996 Atlanta Heptathlon
World Championships
Silver 1997 Athens Heptathlon
Silver 1999 Sevilla Heptathlon
European Championships
Gold 1998 Budapest Heptathlon
European Cup
Gold 1995 Helmond Heptathlon
Silver 2003 Brixen Heptathlon
Representing  England
Commonwealth Games
Gold 1994 Victoria Heptathlon
Gold 1998 Kuala Lumpur Heptathlon

Dame Denise Rosemarie Lewis DBE (born 27 August 1972) is a British sports presenter, sports administrator and former track and field athlete, who specialised in the heptathlon.

She won the gold medal in the heptathlon at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, was twice Commonwealth Games champion, was the 1998 European Champion, and won World Championships silver medals in 1997 and 1999. She was the first European to win the Olympic heptathlon, though Europeans, including Briton Mary Peters, had won the Olympic pentathlon precursor event.

Her personal best score for the heptathlon is 6,831 points, set at the Décastar meeting in 2000. That is a former British record and ranks her third on the all-time British lists behind double World, double Commonwealth Games champion Katarina Johnson-Thompson and Olympic, three-time World and European champion Jessica Ennis-Hill. Along with these two and pentathletes Mary Rand and Dame Mary Peters, Lewis is recognised as one of Britain's greatest female multi-eventers, and the first in the line of British global champions in heptathlon.

Since retiring from athletics, she has undertaken work on television and other media work, and is now a regular athletics pundit for BBC Television, including during the Olympic Games in London 2012, Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020. In addition to her media work, Lewis is president of Commonwealth Games England which is the official Commonwealth Games Association for England at the Commonwealth Games and, since 2023, president of UK Athletics, the governing body for the sport of Athletics in the United Kingdom.

Olympic career

2000 Olympics

The first day of the 2000 Summer Olympics heptathlon was 23 September. In the first event, Lewis rerecorded 13.23 seconds for the 100 metres hurdles, to be in second place behind the world champion, Eunice Barber, who had finished in 12.97 seconds. Ghada Shouaa, the 1996 Olympic champion, pulled out after only 20 metres of her heat.

After a poor performance in the high jump, clearing only 1.75m, some way off her personal best, Lewis was in eighth place, 152 points behind Barber who had increased her lead. In the third event, the shot put, Lewis recorded a distance of 15.55m, placing her second, 30 points behind Natallia Sazanovich and 45 points ahead of former world champion Sabine Braun. Barber's distance of 11.27m put her in eighth place.

In the final event of the day, the 200 metres, Lewis recorded a time of 24.34 sec. Braun's time placed her in sixth position. A strong run by Natalya Roshchupkina moved her from sixth position to second, pushing Lewis into third place.

At the end of the first day, the points scored were:

  1. Natallia Sazanovich, BLR: 3,903
  2. Natalya Roshchupkina, RUS: 3,872
  3. Denise Lewis, GBR: 3,852
  4. Urszula Włodarczyk, POL: 3,805
  5. Yelena Prokhorova, RUS: 3,771
  6. Sabine Braun, GER: 3,770
  7. Eunice Barber, FRA: 3,707
  8. Karin Specht-Ertl, GER: 3,697

The first event on the second day was the long jump. Lewis's best jump was 6.48m, marginally behind Yelena Prokhorova and Sazanovich. Eunice Barber, struggling with injury, withdrew after this event. In event six, the javelin, Lewis achieved a throw of 50.19m. With her closest rivals some way further back she moved into first place, with Sazanovich 63 points behind in second place and Prokhorova in third a further 83 points behind.

In the final event, the 800 metres, Lewis ran with the lower part of her left leg bandaged due to a calf and Achilles tendon injury, aiming to stay close enough to the race leaders to maintain her points advantage. Prokhorova won the race convincingly and when Lewis crossed the line behind Sazanovich it was not clear, at first, if Lewis's time of 2:16.83 was enough to retain first place. After the individual points had been calculated, it was announced that Lewis had won with a total of 6,584 points. Prokhorova was second with 6,531 (53 points behind Lewis), and Sazanovich was third with 6,527 (4 points behind Prokhorova).

2004 Olympics

At the 2004 Olympics, Lewis was suffering from a number of injuries and withdrew from the competition after the long jump. Teammate and training partner Kelly Sotherton took bronze.


Personal bests

Event Best Date Meeting Venue Notes
100 m hurdles 13.13 seconds 29 July 2000 Décastar Talence, France
200 m 24.10 seconds 1 June 1997 Hypo-Meeting Götzis, Austria
800 m 2 min 12.20 seconds 30 July 2000 Décastar Talence, France
High jump 1.87 m 21 August 1999 1999 World Championships in Athletics Seville, Spain
Long jump 6.69 m 30 July 2000 Décastar Talence, France
Shot put 16.12 m 21 August 1999 1999 World Championships in Athletics Seville, Spain
Javelin 51.48 m 10 July 2004 2004 AAA Championships Manchester, United Kingdom
Heptathlon 6,831 points 30 July 2000 Décastar Talence, France 100H 13.13
HJ 1.84
SP 15.07
200m 24.01w
LJ 6.69
JT 49.42
800m 2:12.20

Seasonal bests

International competitions

Year Competition Venue Position Event Notes
1991 European Junior Championships Thessaloniki, Greece 5th Heptathlon 5,476 pts
1994 Commonwealth Games Victoria, Canada 8th Long jump 6.32 m
1st Heptathlon 6,325 pts
European Championships Helsinki, Finland 19th (q) Long jump 6.20 m
1995 European Cup Combined Events Helmond, Netherlands 1st Heptathlon 6,299 pts
World Championships Gothenburg, Sweden 7th Heptathlon 6,299 pts
1996 European Indoor Championships Stockholm, Sweden 8th Long jump 6.42 m
European Cup Madrid, Spain 4th Long jump 6.66 m
Olympic Games Atlanta, United States 23rd (q) Long jump 6.33 m
3rd Heptathlon 6,489 pts
1997 European Cup Munich, Germany 4th Long jump 6.56
World Championships Athens, Greece 2nd Heptathlon 6,654 pts
1998 Commonwealth Games Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 1st Heptathlon 6,513
European Championships Budapest, Hungary 1st Heptathlon 6,559 pts
1999 World Championships Seville, Spain 2nd Heptathlon 6,724 pts
2000 Olympic Games Sydney, Australia 1st Heptathlon 6,584 pts
2001 World Championships Edmonton, Canada Heptathlon DNS
2003 European Cup Combined Events 1st League Tallinn, Estonia 2nd Heptathlon 6,282 pts
World Championships Paris, France 5th Heptathlon 6,254 pts
2004 Olympic Games Athens, Greece Heptathlon DNF

National titles

  • AAA Championships
    • Long jump: 1996, 1998
  • AAA Indoor Championships
    • 60 m hurdles: 1997
    • Long jump: 1994, 1995, 1998
    • Shot put: 2004†
† Lewis was the top placed Briton at the 2004 AAA Indoor shot put behind Sweden's Helena Engman
  • AAA Junior Championships
    • Heptathlon (under-17): 1988
    • Long jump: 1989
  • British Schools International Match
    • Long jump: 1988
  • English Schools Championships
    • Long jump: 1986 (junior), 1987 (intermediate)

Circuit wins

  • Décastar: 2000

Honours, awards and recognition

For services to sport, Lewis was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 1999 New Year Honours, Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2001 New Year Honours and Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2023 New Year Honours .

In 2000, Lewis was also presented with the Freedom of the City of Wolverhampton. In 2010, she was inducted into the Wolverhampton Sporting Hall of Fame, while in 2011, she was inducted into the England Athletics Hall of Fame. In 2013, Lewis was honoured at the annual Wolverhampton Famous Sons & Daughters Awards ceremony. In 2014, she was presented with an honorary degree from the University of Wolverhampton.

With Dame Kelly Holmes, Christine Ohuruogu and Paula Radcliffe, Lewis enjoys acclamation as one of the "golden girls" of British athletics and, in 1998 and 2000, was runner-up in the BBC Sports Personality of the Year. In 2003, Lewis was put forward as a candidate in the BBC Midlands great Midlander of all-time award but lost to the eventual winner, Reginald Mitchell, the inventor of the Supermarine Spitfire.

Lewis was voted "Sportswoman of the Year" three times by the Sports Journalists' Association (SJA), in 1997, 1998 and 2000, a joint-record. She was also runner up in 1996. She was selected as "Female Athlete of the Year" by the British Athletics Writers' Association (BAWA) four times, in 1996, 1997, 1998, and 2000. Lewis won the Sunday Times "Sportswoman of the Year" a record three times, in 1994, 1998 and 2000.

At the inaugural British Ethnic Diversity Sports Awards (BEDSA) in 2015, Lewis became the first recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Her British and Commonwealth record of 6831 points was set on 30 July 2000 in Talence, France. As of 2013, she ranked 15th in the Heptathlon all-time list.

In 2002, Lewis' Olympic victory was ranked 90th in Channel 4's 100 Greatest Sporting Moments.

In 2010, Lewis was made a Patron of the Jaguar Academy of Sport.

Outside of her sports achievements, Lewis was included in the 2019 edition of the Powerlist, ranking the 100 most influential Black Britons.

Television career

Punditry and presenting

Since 2009, Lewis has acted as a pundit for BBC Sport's athletics coverage and she has covered major live events including the 2009 World Athletics Championships, 2010 Commonwealth Games, 2012 Summer Olympics, 2014 Commonwealth Games and 2016 Summer Olympics.

On 2 February 2015, Lewis guest hosted an episode of The One Show with Matt Baker.

Lewis has also been a presenter on various non-sports television programmes. In July 2015, she co-hosted Right on the Money, a daytime series on BBC One, alongside Dominic Littlewood. The programme returned for a second series in July 2016. From 22 July 2011, Lewis hosted children's reality television show Camp Orange. She is a presenter of the BBC's Secret Britain (series 3 onwards) which introduced lesser-known aspects of the British countryside.

Strictly Come Dancing

In 2004, Lewis took part in the BBC dancing competition, Strictly Come Dancing. She was partnered with professional dancer Ian Waite and, in the first few weeks scored the highest number of points from the judges. She eventually reached the final and was runner-up to actress Jill Halfpenny. After that, Lewis and the two other partners from the final danced at the Royal Variety Performance.

Ten days after competing in the Strictly Come Dancing final, Lewis and Waite competed again in the Strictly Come Dancing Champion of Champions Special, in which finalists from the first two series competed against each other. Lewis received the most points from the judges, but again was runner-up to Halfpenny. She then appeared on the 2016 Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special, partnered with Anton du Beke.

The Masked Dancer

In October 2022, Lewis was unmasked as Sea Slug in series 2 of The Masked Dancer.

TV guest appearances

  • Let's Dance for Comic Relief (2009)
  • All Star Family Fortunes (2009)
  • Pointless with her father-in-law, Tom O'Connor (2011)
  • The Cube on ITV (2012)
  • Your Face Sounds Familiar (2013)
  • Big Star's Little Star with her son Ryan (2014)
  • Give a Pet a Home a series which worked alongside the RSPCA in Birmingham (2015)
  • Sport Relief in a sketch with Idris Elba playing Luther (2016)
  • The Chase: Celebrity Special (2017)
  • Hairy Bikers Home for Christmas (2017)
  • All Star Musicals (2017)
  • Would I Lie to You (2018)

Personal life

Born on 27 August 1972 in West Bromwich, to Jamaican-born parents, Lewis grew up in Pendeford, Wolverhampton, and was educated at the Regis School in Tettenhall, which later became the King's School. A £1 million sports hall was later built there and named in her honour.

From the late 1990s until 2005, Lewis was in a relationship with Belgian sprinter Patrick Stevens, and they had a daughter. In 2006, Lewis married Steve Finan O'Connor, former manager of the UK pop group All Saints, current manager of Liam Payne, and son of comedian Tom O'Connor. They have three sons.

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Denise Lewis para niños

  • List of Olympic medalists in athletics (women)
  • List of World Athletics Championships medalists (women)
  • List of Commonwealth Games medallists in athletics (women)
  • List of European Athletics Championships medalists (women)
  • List of 1996 Summer Olympics medal winners
  • List of 2000 Summer Olympics medal winners
  • List of high jump national champions (women)
  • List of people from Wolverhampton
  • British African-Caribbean people
  • Great Britain and Northern Ireland at the World Athletics Championships
  • List of celebrities appearing on Daily Cooks Challenge
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