THE PODCAST,
my life in seven charms
THE PODCAST,
my life in seven charms
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Denise Lewis

Olympic gold medallist and sports presenter

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Annoushka Ducas:
Being an Olympic gold medalist in one discipline takes talent, courage and resilience. Being an Olympic gold medalist in an event that requires brilliance in seven of them is utterly awe-inspiring. My guest this week found athletics when she was eight, and she was instantly smitten. Displaying extraordinary commitment and determination from the word go, striking gold with a historic win at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, an OBE, an ambassador for many charities, a cheerleader for girls' participation in sport. She is also a mother of four children. I'm so thrilled to welcome the amazing Denise Lewis to My Life In Seven Charms.

Annoushka Ducas:
Hi, Denise. So happy to have you here. So your first charm, when I asked you to do this, you weren't sure what it should be, but you said I want it to symbolize all the women in your life who have been so important, your mother and your grandmother. So I kind of really thought about this and thought gosh, that's not that easy, actually. But I love the idea of women helping each other along, and so I've drawn this as two hands holding each other and kind of almost supporting each other and pulling each other along and helping out. So I'd seen this as carved, three-dimensional, I think it should be in 18 carat yellow gold. It's always good to have a ring, never bad to have a ring on the finger. And I thought a few diamonds round the wrist. But on the back, I thought it'd be really lovely to engrave the names of the people who have been so important in your life, so your mother and your grandmother. And so that's how I'd seen it. But I'd really love to know more about why you've chosen this particular idea for the charm.

Denise Lewis:
Well, Annoushka, I have to say you've created something beyond my wildest dreams, but very fitting to illustrate the fabulous women that I do have in my life. So the reason I really went for this charm is because women have been such a central part of my life, my mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, but also the friends that I've acquired along the way. At really critical times in my life, there's always been a woman supporting me, I turn to for help, advice, whether that be personal or about my career.

Annoushka Ducas:
So you're an only child, aren't you?

Denise Lewis:
I'm an only child, I was raised by my mom, single parent and it was tough. And so over the years, I've seen great resilience, great tenacity from my mother, just working it out. She was a young mom and that's never easy, especially as a mom in the '70s. And so watching her, over the years, grow and, I'm sure by her own admission, make mistakes, but still have this real strong sense of pride, of not quitting-

Annoushka Ducas:
Yeah.

Denise Lewis:
Is something that ... It really warms my heart. And I can get quite emotional thinking about her because I know there were times where she really, really struggled.

Annoushka Ducas:
So tell me more about that. So how old was she when she had you?

Denise Lewis:
She was just turning 18.

Annoushka Ducas:
Oh, gosh, she was really young.

Denise Lewis:
Really young.

Annoushka Ducas:
Yeah.

Denise Lewis:
Really, really young. My grandmother was disappointed because-

Annoushka Ducas:
Was she living with your grandmother at the time?

Denise Lewis:
She was living with my grandmother. She was-

Annoushka Ducas:
So that was quite a thing, actually-

Denise Lewis:
Yeah, it was quite-

Annoushka Ducas:
I would imagine.

Denise Lewis:
A thing.

Annoushka Ducas:
Yeah.

Denise Lewis:
We are, I would say, god-fearing family. Her mother as well, so my great-grandmother, all church-goers. And my grandmother came over to the UK to work, to make a better life for the family. And so when she sent for my mother in the '60s to come to the UK to live, it was probably the last thing she was hoping, that, within several years later, that she'd find herself with a young child. And so my mom had to go through all of that disappointment, but still having the courage to keep me, to work it out, to be a full-time mom.

Annoushka Ducas:
God, I mean-

Denise Lewis:
Well, I say full-time mom. Yes, full-time mom, but I had to go to nursery from a tender age.

Annoushka Ducas:
So she had to work-

Denise Lewis:
So she had to work.

Annoushka Ducas:
To look after you. Did you live with your grandmother or did she throw her out?

Denise Lewis:
There was a little stint where my-

Annoushka Ducas:
Was there?

Denise Lewis:
Mom was like, "This is not what I expected."

Annoushka Ducas:
Yeah.

Denise Lewis:
So my mom was cast aside, so she lived with a relative for a while. And then, obviously, when tempers kind of calmed down, she was welcomed back into the fold. But my mother, being as proud as she is, she was ... "No. This is my baby and I'm going to do it my way."

Annoushka Ducas:
But growing up as an only child and, I guess, you were a little team. I'm an only child and was brought up by my mother, so I really get that. But you were a real little team. Do you think, though, did it force you to be very independent very early on in your life?

Denise Lewis:
Very much so. We were a real team, a real unit and that unit has to operate on trust and so much love, even though it was difficult. But there was a time when I was having to go to primary school, my mom would have to leave early in the morning to get to work and so it was, "Make sure you're ready, that you lock up."

Annoushka Ducas:
Oh, you had to do all that?

Denise Lewis:
I had to do all of that, Annoushka. Lock the door, keep your key all day, not lose it.

Annoushka Ducas:
Oh, my-

Denise Lewis:
And so in the evenings, she had to ask some parents if they could watch me for a couple of hours, just that bridging time between finishing school and my mom able to get back home.

Annoushka Ducas:
So can you imagine doing that with any of your children now?

Denise Lewis:
Not at all.

Annoushka Ducas:
Giving them the key and-

Denise Lewis:
Not even that. I don't think anyone-

Annoushka Ducas:
See you.

Denise Lewis:
Has a key, even now, and they're into their teens.

Annoushka Ducas:
I know, me neither.

Denise Lewis:
But I look back at that time and think my goodness, how brave of my mom, but how brave of me-

Annoushka Ducas:
How brave of you.

Denise Lewis:
To be able to understand that this was imperative that I got it right and I didn't disappoint my mom, I didn't put myself undue risk and all before the age of 10.

Annoushka Ducas:
And your dad wasn't around, I know he wasn't around really from the beginning. Did you ever think that that was odd or did you just think that was the norm?

Denise Lewis:
You accept what you're given, don't you, as a child and you don't really understand anything different until someone else points out oh, or ask the question, where's your father? And so I was just happy in my own little bubble. But I do recall my mom always asking me, "Do you want to see him?" And my answer was always no. It was always I don't feel I'm wanting anything.

Annoushka Ducas:
She was obviously a wonderful mommy.

Denise Lewis:
She was a wonderful mom, she did what she could with very little means. I always had great food. Always cooked. Helped her in the kitchen. So, we were that team.

Annoushka Ducas:
Would she cook Jamaican food or-

Denise Lewis:
Yeah.

Annoushka Ducas:
Did she cook-

Denise Lewis:
Yeah, she cooked very West Indian, traditional Jamaican food, food from home to create that home from home feeling-

Annoushka Ducas:
Right.

Denise Lewis:
Because she longed to go back to Jamaica. But she also cooked simple food. One of my favorite meals and it is slightly embarrassing, but I'm going to share. It's one of those podcasts where I think we can. I loved corned beef and rice. It was cooked up with red peppers, onions, lots of black pepper and because it's quite fat and very cheap meats, you get the saltiness from the fat. And a bit of tomato ketchup, stirred up and it was just delicious.

Annoushka Ducas:
It sounds delicious. I thought you were going to say something absolutely horrendous.

Denise Lewis:
No. But I used to love it.

Annoushka Ducas:
Oh, I bet. Do you cook that for your kids?

Denise Lewis:
I have done, because I wanted them to see that when you don't have much money, you have to be creative, you have to use very meager ingredients sometimes, but you just don't go hungry and it's possible to live and to survive. But yeah, they also like it, which is quite nice.

Annoushka Ducas:
Oh, that's fantast-

Denise Lewis:
But they don't get it often.

Annoushka Ducas:
And she's still around, your mom?

Denise Lewis:
Yes, she is, thankfully.

Annoushka Ducas:
And does she live near?

Denise Lewis:
No, she's still in the Midlands.

Annoushka Ducas:
Oh, that must be tough for her. She's missing her grandchildren.

Denise Lewis:
Yes, but she has been a great grandma. I do try to tell her to relax a little bit more. She still is that busy person, she can't sit down, so she comes down to visit, then she'll spend weeks. But she's in the kitchen, she's in the utility room, she's washing, she's tidying up and I'm like, "Mom, be grandma. This is your time. You've had the years of being my mom, where you are doing all those things. This is your time to relax and enjoy."

Annoushka Ducas:
But she's just not that kind of person. I mean, she-

Denise Lewis:
No.

Annoushka Ducas:
I very much doubt you're going to be that kind of person either-

Denise Lewis:
I'm trying.

Annoushka Ducas:
When it comes to-

Denise Lewis:
I'm trying, but as you know, the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree.

Annoushka Ducas:
It normally doesn't fall too far from the tree, I know. Well, actually, that brings us on quite neatly to your second charm. You'd like to have a green conch shell to symbolize Jamaica. As a jeweler, that's like heaven, actually. So I've seen that exactly, just a perfect miniature. I'd seen it, actually, in rose gold because I think the middle part of the shell is always so ... It's so smooth and so pleasing. So three-dimensional, beautifully polished rose gold inside and then a kind of combination of green diamonds and tsavorites in micro-pavé on the outside. So you've chosen that really to symbolize Jamaica. Tell me about that.

Denise Lewis:
Jamaica was always this ... Almost like a mythical land for me, as a child, because my mother used to talk about her beloved grandmother, my great-grandmother, with such fondness. There was always just, "Oh, I wonder what it's like. I wonder what it's like." And so eventually, when I traveled to Jamaica for the very first time at nine, so, again-

Annoushka Ducas:
At nine.

Denise Lewis:
At nine. My mom had saved up-

Annoushka Ducas:
Wow.

Denise Lewis:
Saved up her meager earnings to afford us to fly to Jamaica with my aunt and my cousin at the time, and it was just magical. Even the flight, Annoushka, just that turn, I can remember the turn as you're taking that BA flight, you're landing into Montego Bay, you see the sea, you see the beaches. I remember landing at Sangster Airport in Montego Bay and way back then, there was no air-con. You get off the flight and you're engulfed by this heatwave and I was just like, "Wow." I remember, once we'd got through customs, which was quite a palaver, hustle, bustle, so many people, my great-grandmother and her three sisters and my uncle were at the airport-

Annoushka Ducas:
To meet you.

Denise Lewis:
To meet me and I looked into the faces of these people who I knew were beside themselves to meet me.

Annoushka Ducas:
They'd never met.

Denise Lewis:
Yes, never met.

Annoushka Ducas:
Yeah, that was a very-

Denise Lewis:
Never met me before.

Annoushka Ducas:
Yeah. Yeah.

Denise Lewis:
My mom's nickname-

Annoushka Ducas:
No Zoom or Skype then.

Denise Lewis:
No, no.

Annoushka Ducas:
Yeah.

Denise Lewis:
My mom's nickname was Precious.

Annoushka Ducas:
Ah.

Denise Lewis:
So my great-grandmother called her Precious. And so I just remember being lifted off the floor and smothered with so much adoration and love and that touching of the face, looking into my eyes and my heart was just full. It was full. So that trip, for me, was everything. Real home-cooked food. I could identify what my mom had been preparing at home and now I was getting it from Mother Earth, my great-grandmother and seeing how happy my mom was. She was just ... She was-

Annoushka Ducas:
And what a-

Denise Lewis:
Home again.

Annoushka Ducas:
Sacrifice it was to leave.

Denise Lewis:
Yeah. And so driving around Negril and some of the fantastic beaches, I was just enchanted when I saw this conch shell for the first time. This fabulous shell, which almost looks like it's from a different world.

Annoushka Ducas:
Yes. Yeah. Absolute-

Denise Lewis:
It's so beautiful.

Annoushka Ducas:
Yeah.

Annoushka Ducas:
So this brings me onto your third charm and I've ... When you talk to me about something to signify the heptathlon event, I thought oh, well, that's easy, but, actually, it wasn't easy.

Denise Lewis:
I thought that'd be your easiest charm.

Annoushka Ducas:
No. Well, anyway, I'm really pleased with it. I'm really, really pleased with it because, I mean, I absolutely love things that spin and my jewelry is very, as you know, it's very playful and if it can work, I'd really want it to work. So I wanted it to be, on one side, an absolute replica, as far as we possibly can, of the gold that you won in Sydney. And then on the other side, I want to engrave all the seven disciplines that make up the heptathlon. But the most important thing about this is that it spins super fast.

Denise Lewis:
Like my running.

Annoushka Ducas:
Exactly. So I thought it was ideal in that respect. So I just want to talk a little bit, because it's really hard to know where to start with this, but I guess I want you to go back a little bit and tell us ... I think you were eight when you first discovered that you liked athletics.

Denise Lewis:
Yeah.

Annoushka Ducas:
So can you just tell me about that? And how did you even discover that, age eight?

Denise Lewis:
Summer holidays. Summer holidays, watching television and the Olympics were on.

Annoushka Ducas:
Ah, right.

Denise Lewis:
A-ha.

Annoushka Ducas:
Yeah. Where were they-

Denise Lewis:
Yes.

Annoushka Ducas:
That year?

Denise Lewis:
They were in Moscow.

Annoushka Ducas:
Right.

Denise Lewis:
So 1980.

Annoushka Ducas:
Yeah.

Denise Lewis:
I remember collecting sort of off a cereal packet, they were doing in the lead-up to those games, sort of little Daley Thompson lookalikes. So they had these little Weetabix with the GB kit, at the time, on and they were a bit edgy. And I remember there was a Seb Coe one and I think there might've been stickers with Mary Peters as well, if I recall. But there was just this whole athletic experience in the lead-up and I watched those Olympics and I was like, "Wow. Just wow." I'd been running up and down my schoolyard, trying to be the fastest person in the school, the fastest person in the class, everything, beating all the boys and now there was a place that I can really try and get to. That was the light bulb.

Annoushka Ducas:
So you already wanted to beat everyone?

Denise Lewis:
Yes.

Annoushka Ducas:
I love that.

Denise Lewis:
That's exactly right. I was creating these little races at lunchtime, where I was just like, "Okay, let's run up to the ... From the bottom of the schoolyard, touch the wall and come back done. So, who can be the fastest?" So I was already organizing those things, and so can you imagine my delight seeing this massive competition? And yeah, hooked. I fell in love with athletics, I asked my mother to take me to the nearest athletics club.

Annoushka Ducas:
Which was nearby?

Denise Lewis:
Nearby. Fortuitously, we moved from one side of Wolverhampton to the other, which ended up being really close to the stadium.

Annoushka Ducas:
Right. Okay.

Denise Lewis:
If you are either superstitious or believe in fate, that move alone allowed me to continue because I do think if I'd lived at the old house, where we were, my mom might not have trusted that journey across town.

Annoushka Ducas:
Yeah, because you would've had to do it all on your own.

Denise Lewis:
Yes.

Annoushka Ducas:
Yeah.

Denise Lewis:
Too far.

Annoushka Ducas:
Yeah. Absolutely. So I'm kind of fascinated because you started with running, so how do you go from running to being a heptathlete?

Denise Lewis:
So I progressed from just doing a little bit because when you enter the new club, they take you around to bit of throwing, bit of jumping and obviously running, and I did all of those things in my formative years. And so when I was into my mid-teens, my coach said to me, "Would you fancy doing some other events? Someone's pulled out of a competition." And I used to end up filling in events-

Annoushka Ducas:
For other people.

Denise Lewis:
For other people who didn't turn up-

Annoushka Ducas:
Right.

Denise Lewis:
Or got injured. And then he said, "Just go and do a heptathlon. I'm curious what you could do." I just loved it. I loved the energy, I loved the comradery of the event, all the girls moving together, getting to know each other, because you move as a little team. Even though you're trying to beat each other, there has to be communication. You're spending all day with each other.

Annoushka Ducas:
So, communication. Friendship or rivalry or-

Denise Lewis:
Friendly rivalry.

Annoushka Ducas:
Want to kill her?

Denise Lewis:
Never want to kill her. I've actually never had that feeling about anybody that I've competed against.

Annoushka Ducas:
Really?

Denise Lewis:
It's been that you want to win, I want to win, let's go for it. When we've finished, we can high-five, we can chat in our broken English or what have you and we can get on and we'll see you at the next competition.

Annoushka Ducas:
Do you think you're unusual?

Denise Lewis:
I think the event lends itself to being friendly in a way. The event is challenging, the event is difficult and if you get through all seven disciplines, you've done well.

Annoushka Ducas:
Yeah. Amazing.

Denise Lewis:
And everyone knows there is one event that is going to be your nemesis, the one that is going to unravel you, potentially.

Annoushka Ducas:
Which one was yours?

Denise Lewis:
Oh, gosh. It varied. 800 was my weakest event for many, many years.

Annoushka Ducas:
Right.

Denise Lewis:
But I had some absolute strengths as well. And so it's bringing all those ingredients into the one sort of pot, if you like, on a day and you don't always know which one is going to go swimmingly well, you might be disappointed by your best events.

Annoushka Ducas:
Well, I guess if you've got seven, it's inevitable.

Denise Lewis:
Yeah.

Annoushka Ducas:
But if you're training for one event, we know that that is a full on, full-time job, how does it go with your training for seven? Does that mean you're training far more than anybody else doing one thing?

Denise Lewis:
You train a lot more hours, for sure. But as a heptathlete, you have to learn to get things right in a very short space of time because you have to move on. You cut away all the rubbish, basically.

Annoushka Ducas:
Right.

Denise Lewis:
And really center your focus on the detail of what is specifically going to make you better?

Annoushka Ducas:
I'm curious about the coach. Does one coach coach all seven disciplines?

Denise Lewis:
It varies. Some people do it like that, other people introduce a secondary or even a third coach.

Annoushka Ducas:
Right.

Denise Lewis:
I left my old coach, who was very Midlands-based, and I moved to Holland and the coach that I had was Charles Van Commenee, who later became the head coach for the British team.

Annoushka Ducas:
And did you go to Holland because he was in Holland?

Denise Lewis:
Yes.

Annoushka Ducas:
Okay, so-

Denise Lewis:
Yes, I did.

Annoushka Ducas:
That's really vital.

Denise Lewis:
I moved after Atlanta in '96 because I got a bronze medal, I was on the ascendancy, but I needed more. I needed a better grasp of the winning mentality and being in my comfort zone in the Midlands with all my friends and being almost too happy, I needed that edge, I needed to understand-

Annoushka Ducas:
To push-

Denise Lewis:
To push more-

Annoushka Ducas:
You really hard.

Denise Lewis:
To get two places up the podium.

Annoushka Ducas:
That's so interesting. I've got so many questions. I'm sorry. But the other thing I really want to know is in doing all of this training, what happened to A-levels, O-levels at that point?

Denise Lewis:
Yes.

Annoushka Ducas:
Did you do all of that?

Denise Lewis:
I did. I did my GCSEs. I started my A-levels, but I was traveling so much. Yeah, school was difficult, it was a challenge for me because my schools didn't know about my life outside, particularly. What we have now is gifted and talented programs for sport, music, whatever they're doing. And so I was getting back late at night, after I'd traveled to Birmingham from Wolverhampton, taking the train, bus and train home again.

Annoushka Ducas:
Aged 15, 16?

Denise Lewis:
Yeah.

Annoushka Ducas:
Wow.

Denise Lewis:
Right-

Annoushka Ducas:
And your mother's still working?

Denise Lewis:
My mom's still working.

Annoushka Ducas:
I mean, it is completely extraordinary to think at that young age, that you had already the total dedication.

Denise Lewis:
The dedication was unquestioned, I knew that my heart wanted this. I didn't really know it was going to be a career, but I just knew that I had to give myself an opportunity.

Annoushka Ducas:
Right.

Annoushka Ducas:
I'm going to move onto your fourth charm, which is ... Obviously, it's the Olympic ring. I don't need to ask why you chose that.

Denise Lewis:
Yeah.

Annoushka Ducas:
But, I mean, what a lovely thing to make, again, because we can use lots of lovely stones, but they're going to be absolutely exactly as the Olympic rings are. Rubies, emeralds, black diamonds, yellow sapphires and blue sapphires, and I just think it'll be gorgeous, set in yellow gold. So the back will be very, very polished and very soft and tactile because I like my jewelry to be really tactile. Yeah. So Sydney 2000, gold.

Denise Lewis:
I will love wearing this piece. Olympics has been everything to me.

Annoushka Ducas:
[inaudible 00:22:58].

Denise Lewis:
It has been everything and continues to be, even as my life as a summarizer, talking about it, watching it. There is something magical about an Olympic year that just ignites all the emotions of that victory in Sydney.

Annoushka Ducas:
I mean, it's so hard to imagine, but I'm wanting the listener to understand a little bit about the absolute ... Well, the work that goes into it, but the anticipation because I really want to know the real nitty gritty of what it's like getting ready for the absolute biggest pinnacle, I guess, of what you'd been working towards for so long.

Denise Lewis:
From January the 1st, you flip into that Olympic year, it's this is why we're here. This is why we get up every morning and prepare and do the training and hurt and experience the lactic and the pain and the discipline, it's about this moment.

Annoushka Ducas:
Yeah.

Denise Lewis:
Yeah. But for me, that Sydney preparation was a challenge. I'd been in fantastic form, I'd set a new British and Commonwealth record and so I was ready. But, then, just got struck down by this injury that came out of nowhere.

Annoushka Ducas:
Just before you went?

Denise Lewis:
Nine weeks before the start.

Annoushka Ducas:
Oh, God.

Denise Lewis:
Achilles tendon, which, as anyone can imagine, is just-

Annoushka Ducas:
Critical.

Denise Lewis:
It's critical.

Annoushka Ducas:
Yes.

Denise Lewis:
I didn't actually put my spikes on until two weeks, 10 days before-

Annoushka Ducas:
Oh, my-

Denise Lewis:
The competition started.

Annoushka Ducas:
God, so the mental ... I mean, it must've been-

Denise Lewis:
The mental anguish at the beginning was very tough to deal with, but my team were excellent and they said, "Once you commit to this rehabilitation program, please don't complain. You've chosen to do this," because I had an out, I could've said no, this is going to be too challenging, it's too much, but I said I've come so far in my journey that I can't turn back now. Be the best athlete, in terms of not trying and testing it out, I will do my physio, all the bits in between, I made sure I'd execute those well and all the other training that I could do around it, so upper body, core. But it was that mental rehearsal of the events that was critical to my performance in the end.

Annoushka Ducas:
Yes, of course. Yeah.

Denise Lewis:
Just that dress rehearsal, visualization, each event, what do I need to do? And sometimes, I'd just lie on my bed and I'd run a hurdles race on my bed in my mind. You take your mind into that place where you're in that zone. And so when I eventually got into the arena, it still felt like I'd never been away, if that makes any sense.

Annoushka Ducas:
No, but hold on a minute. We've got into the arena. So nine weeks out-

Denise Lewis:
Back up. Back up.

Annoushka Ducas:
Just back up. Yeah. So you get to Sydney as part of the team, you go to the Athletes' Village, feeling worried about your ... I mean, that's clearly a massive understatement, but-

Denise Lewis:
No, you're right.

Annoushka Ducas:
How are you feeling?

Denise Lewis:
Well, I trained in Brisbane, so that was my preparation camp and I did very little, but, as I said, I did what I could. And I remember, Sue Barker came to interview me for the BBC and there was already a sort of whisper that we haven't seen or heard of Denise for weeks, what is going on?

Annoushka Ducas:
Okay.

Denise Lewis:
Is there a problem?

Annoushka Ducas:
There's a blanket quiet.

Denise Lewis:
There is a blanket quiet.

Annoushka Ducas:
Yeah.

Denise Lewis:
We don't want, obviously, my competitors to be aware that there is an issue.

Annoushka Ducas:
Yeah.

Denise Lewis:
There's whispers in the papers, what's going on, is she okay? She's one of the favorites to win, but no competitions, nothing. And I didn't want to tell Sue anything either, but I just said I'm working as best as I could. Flew into Sydney. So that night before the start of the heptathlon, I was nervous. I remember unpacking my bags, laying out all my kit. I had my lucky teddy bear, my little traveling companion, Egbert, and that's probably my only ritual in terms of superstitions and what to do, because it's very clinical and methodical. So morning of competition, you're up at five.

Annoushka Ducas:
Feeling sick.

Denise Lewis:
Feeling numb.

Annoushka Ducas:
Okay.

Denise Lewis:
All the kit's laid out. What makes me feel strong? I want to come out and look powerful even before I ... The first thing people want to see, they want to see me looking ready, that readiness. So I'd work that out. I've got a change of clothes should the weather turn.

Annoushka Ducas:
Yeah.

Denise Lewis:
Triple check the shoes.

Annoushka Ducas:
Right.

Denise Lewis:
Those go in, bagged up. So all of this is happening in the morning at five.

Annoushka Ducas:
It's making my ... Kind of heart palpitations just listening to you.

Denise Lewis:
Yeah.

Annoushka Ducas:
Yes.

Denise Lewis:
I didn't wear a lot of makeup really, so it was just a little bit of lip gloss because I think you look good, feel good.

Annoushka Ducas:
Yeah.

Denise Lewis:
Maybe a bit of mascara. I think I had my hair down for that first event because I felt like I wanted to just ... I don't know. A sense of freedom. And I don't speak much. Don't speak much. As I get closer to the competition, it's almost like brevity's my friend. I just don't say much.

Annoushka Ducas:
Yeah.

Denise Lewis:
And so I get the tap on the door, my physio, Kevin Lidlow ... And he's literally my best friend, even now, today, he's still my best friend. And he just walks down with me to the dining hall, have breakfast, which is also ... That's when you see your competitors for the first time.

Annoushka Ducas:
Okay.

Denise Lewis:
Because we all have the same schedule. We all want to be on the same bus to give ourselves-

Annoushka Ducas:
Of course, yeah.

Denise Lewis:
Enough time to warm up properly.

Annoushka Ducas:
Yeah. [inaudible 00:29:30] a hi, smile, no?

Denise Lewis:
Bit of a nod maybe.

Annoushka Ducas:
Yeah.

Denise Lewis:
Yeah. Half-smile.

Annoushka Ducas:
Yeah.

Denise Lewis:
Some people don't even get that. And then-

Annoushka Ducas:
No, I can imagine. Yeah.

Denise Lewis:
Yeah. You're trying to eat, then you're trying to take in your breakfast. You know you have to eat, but it is a chore. It's a challenge because the adrenaline is starting to kick up. Kick in, sorry. And the nerves are there. And so you're almost force-feeding yourself.

Annoushka Ducas:
Right.

Denise Lewis:
And then you're on the bus, then you're ... Before you know it ... Yeah. It's game time and then you're walked through the tunnel, so into the darkness to come out into the light in the arena and you can hear the bubble of energy just erupting in the stadium because the announcer will say, "First event." And then the first thing I look for is the Union Jacks. I hear them, I hear the British supporters, you hear and see the flags and that just accelerates and kicks the adrenaline even higher at that point.

Annoushka Ducas:
And that gives you strength and ...

Denise Lewis:
Yes. A sense of pride and a reason, you know your why at that point. You know your why.

Annoushka Ducas:
Was your mom there?

Denise Lewis:
Always. At the majors, she was always there.

Annoushka Ducas:
So did you ever have eye contact with her? Could you see her? Could you know where she was?

Denise Lewis:
Not at the beginning, not for that first event, but later on. When you get the first event out of the way, you almost kind of go ...

Annoushka Ducas:
First event is what?

Denise Lewis:
Is 100 meter hurdles.

Annoushka Ducas:
Always?

Denise Lewis:
Always.

Annoushka Ducas:
Right.

Denise Lewis:
And so you just kind of ... Okay, the event has begun.

Annoushka Ducas:
Yeah.

Denise Lewis:
Now you almost settle into it, then.

Annoushka Ducas:
Right.

Denise Lewis:
So I never saw my mom before the first event, didn't really speak to her either. I just know she'd be in the stadium. So, somewhere during the next event, which is high jump, where there is a little bit of waiting around, I would then see her, clock her, give her a quick nod. She'd be solemn, hands in lap, so nervous.

Annoushka Ducas:
I bet. Oh, my God. Yeah. I feel like I'm in the room, in the stadium now. Okay, so now it's the second event.

Denise Lewis:
High jump.

Annoushka Ducas:
I probably should know this, but I don't know.

Denise Lewis:
It's not a test for you, Annoushka. Second event is the high jump, then we move to the shot put in the afternoon, followed by close of day, 200 meters. So, that's day one out of the way.

Annoushka Ducas:
Right.

Denise Lewis:
Yeah. You're exhausted because it's a long day. Remember, you start at maybe eight o'clock, maybe 8:39, something like that, and then last event of the first day sometimes goes off 12 hours later.

Annoushka Ducas:
So you go back to the Athletes' Village, and were your first events good? Were you-

Denise Lewis:
Yes, I was pleased with how I had a decent shot, which was great, and a reasonably good 200. It was fine. So the close of day one, I was in a good position, but needed to keep in contact with the leader at the time, which was my good rival, Eunice Barber from France, who had beaten me the year before.

Annoushka Ducas:
So in your head, she was the one to beat or it doesn't go like that?

Denise Lewis:
She was the one to beat. We both were in really good form. Gold and silver medalists the year before, in the World Championships. I beat her at the Europeans two years before that. And so we'd had this rivalry going on, along with Sabine Braun from Germany, who was just a formidable athlete, probably one of my favorite heptathletes of all time because she was so consistent for so many years. So day two kicks off with the long jump, one of my strengths, but it's also one of Eunice Barber's strengths. On paper, she was a better long jumper and so it was a real head-to-head. And she pulled out after the second round.

Annoushka Ducas:
Injury.

Denise Lewis:
Injury. Something will always happen and you just pray that it's not you.

Annoushka Ducas:
But you know immediately she's pulled out, do you?

Denise Lewis:
Yeah, because she actually came over to me and she was like ... Something like, "You go and get that gold."

Annoushka Ducas:
Ah, that's amazing.

Denise Lewis:
And then she left the arena at that point with her medical staff. So can you imagine the-

Annoushka Ducas:
No.

Denise Lewis:
Emotions then? You're like okay, yes, she's gone, it doesn't change why you're here. You still have to compete. There was a young Russian girl that was doing very well, we hadn't even heard of her, but she was having the best heptathlon and so I had to keep my eye on her. She was my next problem.

Annoushka Ducas:
Right. Yeah. And then you had a problem.

Denise Lewis:
And then I had a problem. So, it was almost like what is going on here? So my Achilles tendon on the left leg, but it was actually the bones in the foot that, I think, must've just ... The sheer taping, the weeks of taping, the compression of the bones-

Annoushka Ducas:
Weakened.

Denise Lewis:
Weakened them. So it was a marginal stress fracture.

Annoushka Ducas:
I mean, I can't imagine. So you've got this going on, in, clearly, a massive amount of pain.

Denise Lewis:
Yeah.

Annoushka Ducas:
And yet, you've still got to jump.

Denise Lewis:
I had one more jump to do, but worse than that, I had the javelin to go, which there's extraordinary amount of forces that come through the foot, through the body when you're throwing the javelin. So, head in hand, just thinking what-

Annoushka Ducas:
What to do. What should I do?

Denise Lewis:
Yeah, what to do.

Annoushka Ducas:
Yeah.

Denise Lewis:
What to do. And I just lay there thinking I need this. I need this. I need to know it's all been worth it.

Annoushka Ducas:
Yeah. God.

Denise Lewis:
And I need to know that I've got the sort of resolve, that tenacity that I'm not going to be undone at this moment-

Annoushka Ducas:
By this. Yeah.

Denise Lewis:
The penultimate event.

Annoushka Ducas:
Yeah. So moving on a little bit, so the final event is what?

Denise Lewis:
The 800 meters. Yeah.

Annoushka Ducas:
Which is not your favorite event?

Denise Lewis:
No.

Annoushka Ducas:
Particularly with dodgy foot, [inaudible 00:36:06].

Denise Lewis:
Particularly two laps around the track that is only going to result in pain and then an uncertainty about the foot, whether it will hold.

Annoushka Ducas:
Yeah.

Denise Lewis:
But I needed it because the Russian girl, this young Russian girl was closing in and I knew she had a fantastic 800 meter run in her.

Annoushka Ducas:
Right.

Denise Lewis:
Because I looked at all her stats, we'd gone through it. Because at that stage, you are calculating the numbers game.

Annoushka Ducas:
Where you are.

Denise Lewis:
And where you are, and how many points. If you throw this, how many points will you amass? Worse case scenario, if you do this and she does that, where does that leave you? So all of this is going on in the penultimate couple of events.

Annoushka Ducas:
Yeah.

Denise Lewis:
And I knew exactly what I had to do for the 800 meters. I didn't know what she was capable of on the day, but I knew she was good. And then the gun goes. And I'm feeling almost like a robot and I know I have to hit my target at 200 meters, at 400 meters, then at 600 meters before you bring it home. Ultimately, it was me and the clock and this Russian girl. I just knew I had to keep her within my sights, so I couldn't let the gap get too big. I knew I had enough in me, but I couldn't extend myself because that could end up in disaster, that I would just get too much lactic and just end up being slower, so I had to pace myself.

Annoushka Ducas:
Pace yourself.

Denise Lewis:
Yeah.

Annoushka Ducas:
Yeah. So she went over the line first?

Denise Lewis:
Absolutely. She went over the line first and then ... I know what happens. Everyone has their stopwatches out and they're literally counting the seconds. I remember being halfway down the home straight and watching the clock and watching the line and praying for it to come quicker, but in my head, consciously thinking second, second, second.

Annoushka Ducas:
Yeah.

Denise Lewis:
I crossed the line and I thought oh, gosh, it's painfully close, and always looks like it's too far. I thought I hadn't done it.

Annoushka Ducas:
So what's the moment where you realized you'd done it?

Denise Lewis:
I heard someone shout, "Denise, you've done it! I think you've done it! You've done enough." Don't know who that voice is. To this day, I don't know who that was, but I know that some of the British team from athletics were congregated by the finish line. I know my mom was there, my coach was there, Dame Mary Peters was there and I look across, I wave, there's sort of a half-smile, but nothing concrete for me to go off and I said to just wait until the scoreboard shows the results. And what they do first, they give the times and they don't actually announce the overall winner for what feels like an age, but it must've been three or four minutes.

Annoushka Ducas:
Oh, an age.

Denise Lewis:
Yeah.

Annoushka Ducas:
Yeah. An age.

Denise Lewis:
So they go through the times, I heard the announcer saying, "And the winner of the gold medal is Denise Lewis from Great Britain and Northern Ireland," and there's an eruption and then there's this warm, gooey, tingly sensation that just gripped my whole body. And I remember looking skyward and saying, "Thank you." And then I was just beside myself with the nation.

Annoushka Ducas:
No tears?

Denise Lewis:
No tears. No tears. The tears came weeks later, actually. But the emotion from within, it was just this feeling of satisfaction and thinking about my journey. I know it sounds cliché, but it really is just ... I was transported back to that little girl that wanted to be an Olympian.

Annoushka Ducas:
Right there, in the middle of the stadium.

Denise Lewis:
In that moment, in the middle of the stadium, thinking you've done it. I couldn't stop smiling. I went to bed smiling, I woke up the next morning smiling. I remember going over to my mom and kissing her, she kissed me right on the mouth and we hugged. She was crying, my coach had tears in his eyes and ... Yeah. The next thing I remember is Union Jacks being thrown over the side so I can drape myself in it. Those-

Annoushka Ducas:
And did you do a-

Denise Lewis:
Yeah, and did my lap of-

Annoushka Ducas:
Did you do the tour? You did the lap.

Denise Lewis:
Yeah, my lap of honor. So those iconic moments that-

Annoushka Ducas:
How amazing.

Denise Lewis:
I'd seen as a child were now my moments.

Annoushka Ducas:
I mean, utterly ... Thank you so much. I kind of feel like, somehow, vicariously, I ... It does, it makes you tingle. Gosh. Okay. So I'm going to move onto your fifth charm. So you said to me, I want something that represents your children, but also about balance and maybe motherhood. So I really thought about this and you can see on your sketch, I did two, actually. I did a pea pod because I did a pea pod for my own children, but the other one I did, which I really enjoyed doing this actually, so it's a shape of a woman in yellow gold, three-dimensional, little waist, bit of boobs, bit of a bum, but holding two baskets in each hand and those baskets are made with diamonds, so they're micro-pavé diamond baskets, and two pearls in each basket and those are to represent your kids. So I don't know which you prefer.

Denise Lewis:
They both embody just so much of who I am and what I'm about. My children are everything to me.

Annoushka Ducas:
Of course.

Denise Lewis:
I'm an only child, as we've highlighted earlier, and so the fact that I've got four, it's just-

Annoushka Ducas:
I know, it's weird, isn't it? Weird.

Denise Lewis:
It's unthinkable. I just don't know how. It was not a master plan as such.

Annoushka Ducas:
But hold on a minute, you've got four, but one's only two.

Denise Lewis:
One's only two. Crazy, right?

Annoushka Ducas:
So am I right in thinking that they ... Well, you can tell me. 18?

Denise Lewis:
18. Now-

Annoushka Ducas:
So Lauryn's 18.

Denise Lewis:
Lauryn's 18.

Annoushka Ducas:
Yeah.

Denise Lewis:
Ryan is 14, Kane, 12 and little baby Troy, who's nearly two.

Annoushka Ducas:
So you had him, I hope that's all right to say, when you were 46.

Denise Lewis:
Yes, I did. Yeah.

Annoushka Ducas:
I mean, what energy? If I thought I was going to have a child at 46, I don't think I could have managed it actually.

Denise Lewis:
Well, there was much debate. Yeah. When I found out I was pregnant again, I was elated and then I thought, literally, wow. And then you start to take on sort of how it might impact everybody else, the children, work. Steve was happy, but also Steve is older than I am, so he was also thinking ... He's like, "I've done my time." And so it was almost like I was a child again, having to tell my mom that I was pregnant for the first time because I was really nervous about what she would say.

Annoushka Ducas:
What did she say?

Denise Lewis:
Initially, I think she was nervous for me, just the body, can it really do this again? She said, "You're exhausted with Kane," my number three, "Can you physically do this and do it safely for both you and baby?" I think those were her real concerns. Her mothering instinct was very much not thinking about how fantastic it was to have another grandchild, it was really are you going to be okay?

Annoushka Ducas:
Are you going to be all right? And was it a more exhausting pregnancy than the others?

Denise Lewis:
No.

Annoushka Ducas:
No?

Denise Lewis:
Not at all.

Annoushka Ducas:
Well, that's because-

Denise Lewis:
Not at all.

Annoushka Ducas:
That's because you're an Olympian.

Denise Lewis:
But I had so many well wishes and funny enough, women that said, really, they're quite envious. So these women that are 40 plus, that felt that I was being actually incredibly, very brave in an admiration way that they just thought wow, I'd love to do that, but I'm just not-

Annoushka Ducas:
Not brave enough.

Denise Lewis:
Brave enough to take that on.

Annoushka Ducas:
I mean, we talked about the different charms, but the lady with the baskets, that's really to represent kind of balance and balancing it, as we all know. I mean, my goodness. I mean, I think you had Lauryn two years after Sydney, is that right?

Denise Lewis:
Yes, that's right. Two years after Sydney and-

Annoushka Ducas:
And still thinking you're going to continue-

Denise Lewis:
Yeah.

Annoushka Ducas:
To be an athlete, to go for the next Olympics actually?

Denise Lewis:
Completely.

Annoushka Ducas:
And so I'm like, ooh.

Denise Lewis:
Yeah. Lauryn, my first child, I was still very much in the athlete mindset, so it was like okay, let's get on with this pregnancy, yes, bish, bash, bosh. I know I have to wait a little while before I get back into training, but I'm counting the days. Very much athlete mindset. I still don't understand how I ended up with four, but I thought okay, I'm in the family mode, I'd like to have another baby. I got married to Steve and then we just then had another couple of boys, so I was super busy, but juggling. So these scales do represent very much my life, which is that work, life balance, juggling motherhood and working.

Annoushka Ducas:
But it's not just working and motherhood, you do so many other things as well, whether you're an ambassador for girls' sport, you obviously ... We all know you as a TV presenter, you've presented so many different things. I mean, we'll talk about Strictly in a minute. But, I mean, you do do more than most people.

Denise Lewis:
I think it's just because it's not a regular nine to five, if there's any such thing anymore, but it's not sort of formulaic, is it, really? My world changes. Every week could be different.

Annoushka Ducas:
Yes.

Denise Lewis:
Juggling. But what I try to be is also really hands-on and that's maybe because I'm a bit of a control freak as well.

Annoushka Ducas:
I was going to say, is that down to that?

Denise Lewis:
I think so.

Annoushka Ducas:
Yeah. But that's hard to be hands-on, not quite ... I mean, I guess it might've been a bit easier over the last 10 months because we've all known we're going to be at home.

Denise Lewis:
That's right. Yeah.

Annoushka Ducas:
So with a two-year-old baby, that's helped a bit.

Denise Lewis:
It's actually been a golden time with Troy, I've loved every minute of it. So I've managed to see all his milestones, so every new element of his little world and changing person and personality as well, I've been right there, not missing a beat.

Annoushka Ducas:
Yes, that is wonderfully-

Denise Lewis:
It's very special to be having that time where all the ... My other children, there have been different aspects of my life that have been competing with that motherhood role, and so it's nice, it really is nice to have this other side. And Steve said to me recently that he's enjoyed watching me with almost new eyes.

Annoushka Ducas:
Well, I guess he-

Denise Lewis:
Yeah, because he's been home as well, and watching me be a mom has been something that he has really fully appreciated this time round.

Annoushka Ducas:
And there are a couple of things I wanted to ask you. I think I read that your mother was quite strict. I guess she kind of had to be. But are you quite strict?

Denise Lewis:
I think so.

Annoushka Ducas:
Do they think so?

Denise Lewis:
Yes. Yes, they do. I mean, compared to my husband, completely. They get away with-

Annoushka Ducas:
Oh, I think that's just par for the course, isn't it?

Denise Lewis:
Yes. So I believe that children need boundaries, they do need parameters in which they can operate, otherwise it's just chaos. It's bedlam.

Annoushka Ducas:
Particularly with four.

Denise Lewis:
Yeah, with four and all strong opinions, as young people seem to be these days.

Annoushka Ducas:
Yes.

Denise Lewis:
They like to challenge, and so I have to be strict. I mean, apart from my daughter, I'm the only woman and so I'm having to state my claim and make sure that the boys listen because they'd be off doing whatever Dad wants, which would be to chill out and have a good time. And we can't have that, can we, all the time?

Annoushka Ducas:
God, no. Definitely can't have that. And are any of them sporty?

Denise Lewis:
They're all sporty.

Annoushka Ducas:
But is anyone kind of going to follow you?

Denise Lewis:
I don't know about that. I don't know whether they have that level of competitiveness.

Annoushka Ducas:
Ah, right.

Denise Lewis:
I was competitive.

Annoushka Ducas:
Would you encourage them if they did?

Denise Lewis:
Definitely. I think sport is a great avenue to pursue. I would not be the person I am today. I don't think I'd even would've coped so well with lockdown had I not had the experience of being in sport because it teaches you how to manage disappointment, setbacks, to be optimistic and to still keep striving for better, even when everything else around you is probably telling you not to. You've got to have a certain mindset and those nuggets and pearls that I've acquired over the years as a sportswoman at the highest level, I think, have taught me a lot about life.

Annoushka Ducas:
In your autobiography, you wrote your number one priority is to find inner peace and happiness, to get more balance in your life and to take time for myself. Do you think you've managed to do that?

Denise Lewis:
Yes, she said with a little two-year-old toddler.

Annoushka Ducas:
Just like ... Yeah.

Denise Lewis:
But I am. I'm more peaceful. I have this inner peace and it might be born out of the winning and that sense of accomplishment, but I'm also, essentially, happy with what I've got. And I don't want for anything major, I don't.

Annoushka Ducas:
Well, that's just a wonderful place to be, isn't it?

Denise Lewis:
Yeah.

Annoushka Ducas:
It really is.

Denise Lewis:
So everything else just feels like a bonus, so I am happy.

Annoushka Ducas:
So your second last charm, which is number six, I was really excited about this one. So it's a comb. Am I right in thinking that your hair had been a very important part of your upbringing and your relationship with your mother?

Denise Lewis:
Yeah.

Annoushka Ducas:
So I looked it up, so is it actually called an Afro pick?

Denise Lewis:
Yes.

Annoushka Ducas:
Is it called that?

Denise Lewis:
It can be Afro comb, Afro pick. But I wanted it in as one of my charms and so I'm glad you've managed to recreate that.

Annoushka Ducas:
Well, because I love making things perfect in miniature and it's such a specific shape, isn't it? It's such a specific shape. But I kind of thought I'd like the top to be wood and the combs to be ... They seem, to me, they've got to be yellow gold.

Denise Lewis:
I think you have done it really well because there's no long handle-

Annoushka Ducas:
No.

Denise Lewis:
It's quite short because you need it to be firm to pass through the Afro hair. And the reason I wanted the Afro comb in and it's a little bit to do with Black Lives Matter, but also tying with, as you said, my childhood. And also the fact that, for a black woman, hair is such a big deal and has been, whether it's someone else talking about Afro hair or what it represents, what it symbolizes. But, essentially, as a woman, having hair that is so flexible. I mean, one day, it can be super curly, the next day, if I want to blow dry, it could be straight. But as a child, that moment ... And most black women would tell you that the combing out of hair ... If you've got curly hair, maybe even if you've got curly hair, the agony you can be in trying to comb through that, where it actually tangles, is your worst nightmare.

Annoushka Ducas:
So do you have to put product in it to stop it tangling?

Denise Lewis:
Yes, but-

Annoushka Ducas:
[inaudible 00:53:56] of product.

Denise Lewis:
Yes.

Annoushka Ducas:
Yeah.

Denise Lewis:
Lots of product and also, in the washing process, it has to be delicate. And we're only learning these things as we're moving through the ages because as a child, it was quite a vigorous, painful moment when you're going to wash your hair because it would tangle and the product wasn't as sophisticated as it is probably now. And because it was an event-

Annoushka Ducas:
Okay.

Denise Lewis:
You don't wash black hair every day. It's not good, it strips it of its natural oils.

Annoushka Ducas:
Right.

Denise Lewis:
And so it would be a weekend, maybe a Saturday or Sunday, late morning, early afternoon and you'd have this experience, or I did anyway, with my mom, where she'd wash my hair for me as a child and we'd sit and put an afternoon matinee on and we'd watch TV. She'd be sitting on a chair, I'd be on the floor in between her legs and she'd be combing my hair out. And once you get past the initial pain and discomfort, of which there was a lot, it goes into this nice sort of relaxing, almost spa-like experience, where-

Annoushka Ducas:
It's kind of ritual.

Denise Lewis:
It is a ritual.

Annoushka Ducas:
Bit ritual.

Denise Lewis:
Yeah. But it's where we're watching TV, my mom would part my hair into segments so it makes it easier to handle and then she would lubricate it with oils and she would either plait it or she would do what we can describe now as Bantu knots, which are traditionally from Africa, but adopted by the Caribbean. And so you make these little knots all over your head after it's been parted and instead of using a blow dryer to blow dry your hair, you'd let the hair dry naturally.

Annoushka Ducas:
Right.

Denise Lewis:
And then you'd loose them out and you'd just have this gorgeous sort of mane. And for me, it was just a nice time where my mom wasn't cleaning or cooking or doing something and we'd just sit there in this bonding experience-

Annoushka Ducas:
Time together.

Denise Lewis:
Of doing your hair. Yeah, and time together. Yeah. And it's passed down from generation to generation, so I used to sit there with Lauryn and do her hair as well and it would be the only time that we weren't arguing, until she got an opinion about how she wanted her hair styled, but at least we could sit there. And you craft this beautiful hairstyle. And I used to look at her once I'd finished doing her hair and just marvel in how pretty she looked and how beautiful she looked.

Annoushka Ducas:
I mean, since I've known you, I don't know how many hairstyles you've had, but, actually, do you kind of think long and hard about changing your hairstyle?

Denise Lewis:
No, it's a feeling. It's okay, time for a change. So it's either a change of color or some extensions, and I'm loving it. It's a great place to be right now, if you're a young black girl or of mixed origin and you have hair that you kind of used to baffle at how am I going to manage this, and now you can. You can tame your hair and represent however you want to look in so many guises. So, the Afro comb was ... It's great that it could be included.

Annoushka Ducas:
Oh, no, I'm so glad because it's ... Well, A, it'd be lovely, but also it's just great to hear how important it was in your life. So your final charm is a treble clef. I see it, obviously, it's got to have diamonds, lovely diamonds on it. It's got to have diamonds and kind of ... I love yellow gold, so I see them as graduated diamonds down the treble clef as it gets fatter round the circle. And I think, also, just very, very soft at the back, but highly polished yellow gold. But tell me, has music been an incredibly important part of your life?

Denise Lewis:
Incredibly so. It takes me back, again, to my childhood. I think of my mom and I think of the aunt that I spoke about very early in the podcast. At weekends, we used to go to see my godmother and we used to be at her house and we'd play music, and my mother and my aunt used to listen to Diana Ross, The Supremes and sounds of Jamaica, so a lot of artists from the Caribbean, from the reggae industry and music, and bring that home. My mom was a big Marvin Gaye fan. And, again, talking about how much music made my mom happy, because there were difficulties, as we alluded to earlier, but it was a moment where we were just free and dancing and it was just that sense of celebration that made me feel happy.

Annoushka Ducas:
Yes.

Denise Lewis:
We can all think about music of our childhood that our parents played and how you see your parents in a different light.

Annoushka Ducas:
Yes, absolutely. Yeah.

Denise Lewis:
Yeah. When they're listening to the music that made them feel alive when they were younger.

Annoushka Ducas:
Yes.

Denise Lewis:
And that theme has always continued through me, whether I've been competing. It's so essential to get your mind into the right place, and music can be a great tool for that. Changes your mood. If I'm upset about something, I'll listen to some female empowerment music, just as a-

Annoushka Ducas:
What do you listen to?

Denise Lewis:
Oh, well, it could either be Chaka Khan ... Just anything that's ... Whitney.

Annoushka Ducas:
Did you want to be Whitney? Did I read somewhere-

Denise Lewis:
I did want to be Whitney.

Annoushka Ducas:
You wanted to be Whitney?

Denise Lewis:
I did want to be Whitney. And when she released Give Me One Moment in Time, that Olympic anthem for the '88 Olympics-

Annoushka Ducas:
Oh, is that what it was?

Denise Lewis:
Yeah, for the '88 Olympics. Every word spoke to me. I was probably turning 16 and wanted so desperately to make it. And so music has just been ... Yeah. It's been my friend.

Annoushka Ducas:
But you started by ... You said early, but it started by wanting to be a dancer or doing-

Denise Lewis:
Yes.

Annoushka Ducas:
Did you want to be a dancer or did-

Denise Lewis:
I did ballet for a long while. Always dancing. I always loved music. My mom would tell you I used to dance all the time.

Annoushka Ducas:
So when you're asked to go on Strictly, that must've been-

Denise Lewis:
Oh, darling, take me, I'm ready! This is my calling.

Annoushka Ducas:
So talk me through Strictly. I don't know who your partner was, but is there this ... There must be this very intense kind of relationship. I mean, just talk me through that a little bit.

Denise Lewis:
Strictly was just magical. It is, it's sequins, it's stoning, it's ... Yeah. Very tactile, of course, with your partner. My partner was Ian Waite. And you're constantly holding hands because they are guiding you through what could be and has been described by so many as a terrifying experience if you don't think you're that good and trying to pick up rhythm, music in a very short space of time. You have maybe a week to learn a whole new routine, so I remember muffling through that on the Saturday, at the live show on the Saturday, but I looked fabulous, even if I say-

Annoushka Ducas:
You looked-

Denise Lewis:
So myself.

Annoushka Ducas:
I looked it up on YouTube. You look fabulous.

Denise Lewis:
The outfits. Because I was fit, I had this turban on, this stoned turban, it was just the most gorgeous ... I looked like a scene out of the 1940s or something. And this long, stoned dress, bit cut out in the center. I looked a million dollars, so I don't think anyone noticed my footwork and how bad it was, they just were looking at this dress.

Annoushka Ducas:
I mean, it was absolutely captivating. Absolutely amazing. But you didn't win.

Denise Lewis:
I didn't win. How is that possible?

Annoushka Ducas:
I mean, how did that-

Denise Lewis:
It's a travesty.

Annoushka Ducas:
Feel? For you, how did that feel?

Denise Lewis:
Robbed. Robbed, I was. No, Jill Halfpenny, who did eventually win that series, was phenomenal. She went onto perform in Chicago.

Annoushka Ducas:
Oh, did she?

Denise Lewis:
Yes.

Annoushka Ducas:
Okay.

Denise Lewis:
She had fancy footwork.

Annoushka Ducas:
Is Steve a dancer?

Denise Lewis:
No. No.

Annoushka Ducas:
That's a-

Denise Lewis:
Steve isn't a dancer, but what he did do for our wedding was learn to waltz.

Annoushka Ducas:
Did he?

Denise Lewis:
And Ian Waite, my dance partner, taught him.

Annoushka Ducas:
Taught him.

Denise Lewis:
So it was all happening-

Annoushka Ducas:
On the quiet.

Denise Lewis:
On the quiet.

Annoushka Ducas:
Oh, that's so-

Denise Lewis:
On the quiet. And then once the cat was out the bag, Ian used to pop over and we'd rehearse our first dance together, which was a waltz, to a wonderful artist called Beth Orton.

Annoushka Ducas:
Oh, yeah.

Denise Lewis:
And just a beautiful, beautiful waltz we did and we brought the house down.

Annoushka Ducas:
Yeah, I bet you did.

Denise Lewis:
He's a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, he has boxed, so he's a bit rough and ready and no-one expects this dashing prince-

Annoushka Ducas:
Smooth.

Denise Lewis:
To be able to waltz me off the dance floor. It was-

Annoushka Ducas:
Fred Astaire.

Denise Lewis:
A treat. Yes.

Annoushka Ducas:
It was Fred Astaire and Ging.

Denise Lewis:
And Ging.

Annoushka Ducas:
Although not quite Ging.

Denise Lewis:
Ging-ish.

Annoushka Ducas:
Ging-ish. Thank you so much, Denise. It's been an absolute honor to talk to you and hear in so much detail, everything.

Denise Lewis:
Thank you.

Annoushka Ducas:
Now, as you know, I would like to make you one of these charms, so have you decided which one you're going to choose?

Denise Lewis:
That's so hard. I think it's the scales-

Annoushka Ducas:
Is it?

Denise Lewis:
With the pearls. I think so. But that would mean, then, denying my gold, the gold and everything that is embodied in the heptathlon and that gold medal.

Annoushka Ducas:
But you have got the gold.

Denise Lewis:
I do have the gold.

Annoushka Ducas:
I mean, you have got a rather bigger-

Denise Lewis:
I have a-


Annoushka Ducas:
Version of it.

Denise Lewis:
I do have a bigger-

Annoushka Ducas:
So yeah.

Denise Lewis:
Version. I really do. It's irreplaceable. I think it's the scales.

Annoushka Ducas:
The scales?

Denise Lewis:
I think it's the balancing of the scales, the womanhood, motherhood. It embodies so much and it's an exquisite piece.

Annoushka Ducas:
I think it'll be gorgeous. I think it'll be absolutely gorgeous. Now my final question is when you're not around anymore and your grandchildren find this lovely charm bracelet in a drawer somewhere, what do you want them to think of you? What do you want your legacy to be for them?

Denise Lewis:
Oh, that's such a good question. But I think I'd like them to appreciate the richness that life can be if you work hard and you make the right decisions or you make decisions based on the essence of who you are, friendships, work and the people that you meet. It's every element of that charm or the charm that you will make has somebody special attached to it and they've enriched my life.


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