Jeanette Kwakye is a former British Olympic sprinter who reached the women’s 100m final in Beijing in 2008.
She has since forged a career in the media, recently moderating the 2019 International Athletes’ Forum in Lausanne.
Jeanette is the host of the Athlete365 Webinar Series with stars like Eliud Kipchoge and Axel Lund Svindal joining her to talk to our community.
I was quite a late starter in athletics; I didn’t start until I was about 14 years old. I used to go down to my local track in East London. I was there for two days a week. I didn’t always like the training – I found it quite hard – but I knew I was quick, and I loved the feeling of competing.
I remember going to the World Junior Championships in Jamaica and seeing Usain Bolt run for the first time. The reaction from the crowd and the fact I was in Jamaica on a trip with Team GB made me think I could do it for a living. It was great.
2008 was my Olympic year. I became the first British woman to reach the 100m final in 24 years, and I realised after the race how much of a big deal that actually was. The stadium was alight and packed with 90,000 people. It was an amazing experience, and one I’ll never forget.
I OBTAINED A DIPLOMA SO THAT EDITORS AND PRODUCERS KNEW I WAS QUITE SERIOUS ABOUT JOURNALISM, AND THAT I WASN’T JUST A FORMER ATHLETE WHO WANTED TO TALK ABOUT SPORT.
Transitioning to sports media
When I was younger, it was always going to be between the media and sport. I loved English at school, and when I retired from athletics, I did a qualification in journalism. I obtained a diploma so that editors and producers knew I was quite serious about journalism, and that I wasn’t just a former athlete who wanted to talk about sport. I actually wanted to produce and edit to make sure I could walk into any newspaper or television department.
My journalism put to rest any doubts I may have had about retiring. It became a priority for me; I could see that my Olympic and athletic journey was naturally coming to an end and that a new chapter was beginning with new opportunities. I was in the right place at the right time with some of those opportunities, and I was able to take them.
Use your self-confidence and trust the process
In terms of the skill-sets that apply to both athletics and a career in media, I would say that discipline is the main thing. You have to have an element of discipline if you want to be the best at what you do. Organisation is another big thing; either being highly organised yourself or having someone to organise on your behalf.
Those are probably the two biggest things that I’ve brought with me to my media career, along with confidence. I think you gain a certain type of confidence as a young person competing in sport, right through your formative years into young adulthood and eventually into actual adult life, and that confidence is something you can’t buy. It’s an experience that constantly enriches you, year upon year.
It’s tough going into another world where you don’t know what’s going on, and where it’s now about someone else’s opinion as opposed to a black-and-white sports result. But if you’ve got the self-confidence and you trust the process, as you would do with sport, then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be successful in your new career.