25 February 2008

Wendy Sly

Monday 5.00am 11KM Roo+Lake 45m16

VERY HUMID and I was feeling pretty tired!
Was I fortunate to go to Loughborough during the Golden Years of British Distance running!
If we saw Wendy out on a run, be it The Beacon or in the woods (Bluebell Wood), it was enough to make you change course /follow / run with / in order to spend time with the Loughborough Pin Up girl! We loved her. Unfortunately she was already 'with' renowned middle distance runner Chris Sly. Wendy won a Silver Medal at the LA Olympics (where Decker/Slaney fell!). She was beaten by Puica of Romania so, in effect, she WON the GOLD MEDAL! 8m39 (Bloody Hell!).

Here is a storey I found about her whilst searching for the photo above.

Sly survives brain surgery with old fighting spirit
By Sebastian Coe

Last Updated: 8:23pm BST 02/05/2004

I handed my mobile phone to Daley Thompson, who was sitting next to me at the warm-up track beside the Olympic stadium in Sydney. We were at February's Australian Olympic trials, and I was not sure what to make of the text message I had received.

He read it and handed the phone back to me. "Guess I had better call her," I said. He nodded. Wendy Sly answered immediately and I could think only of asking whether she was all right. "Well, I am now," she chirpily answered, as though recovering in New York from brain surgery, as the text message had read, was akin to taking the day off because she was feeling a little off colour. But then again Sly, one of the best middle and long-distance runners to have represented Great Britain, has always been one for understatement.

Sly, who won a silver medal in the 3,000 metres at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984, had become a statistic one evening at a leafy Surrey railway station - and on this occasion not one with time or distance attached. She was sent crashing to the ground as she successfully attempted to prevent a mugger from making off with her briefcase. "I knew he was young," she said of her assailant, "he didn't run like an adult. You know, he was all knees and elbows." Only a runner would have observed the footfall and the alignment of knee and hip as they were on their way to suffering a brain haemorrhage.

advertisementDischarged from her local hospital with stitches in her head and a drum-full of painkillers, she returned to work the following day to prepare a presentation for a meeting in New York. "You're OK to travel," she was assured by another doctor.

Sly was not so sure. "I was up to my eyes in Advil and had ringing in my ears and no peripheral vision in my left eye, which was the only one I could see out of. I knew it just wasn't right," she said.

Sly arrived in New York and halfway through her meeting decided she could no longer soldier on with the violent headaches she had suffered since the mugging. After a CT scan at the nearest hospital, she set off back to the meeting only to be restrained by two doctors doing a passable impersonation of Carl Lewis along the hospital corridor. "You can't leave, you've got a blood clot 5cm in diameter," they yelled. Ten minutes later she was in the emergency room on a drip; 36 hours later, after exhaustive tests, she was having brain surgery.

She was lucky. The flight and change of air pressure could have killed her two days earlier. Yet she returned home a couple of weeks after the successful surgery and was back running not long after that. "I still get quite tired and I'm getting back to the office slowly and tend to work from home," she said. "The first time I went back to my gym I got a standing ovation as I walked in, which was nice of them."

There will be a few of my contemporaries at Loughborough University who will not be remotely surprised by her resilience and determination, and one seasoned international in particular, who in the ninth mile of a breakneck training run was asked by her whether he was feeling OK as she eased away from him to complete the session.

Sly's two fifth places in the World Athletics Championships in 1983, in 1500m and 3,000m races won by Mary Decker, were performances of the highest quality. These were distances ostensibly dominated by the old Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc countries. A year later Decker was to play a prominent but prostrate role in Sly's finest moment, when a mid-race collision between the American athlete and Britain's Zola Budd left Decker lying on the track clutching her hip and making a noise familiar to every kindergarten teacher. Sly, unruffled by the histrionics, got the silver behind Romania's Maricica Puica.

Before she was detained by those American doctors, Sly rang through to her colleagues in the office. "I can still make the rest of the meeting," she told them. That proved beyond even her, but thanks to the doctors she can still make the rest of her life.

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