Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken's
Interviews and
Reports

Donna Fraser (June 2014)

(Donna Karen Fraser was born 7th of November 1972 at Thornton Heath near Croydon, South London)

Donna Fraser, the friendly and likeable, long striding international sprinter had a long career, if you consider she started very young (at 8) and did not actually properly retire from competition till she was 41. She still wanted to have a strong hand in helping with her considerable knowledge of the sport.
When I met her she was handing out prizes at Crystal Palace Stadium, to the medallists in the South of England Championships, on June 15th 2014. She is currently the President of the South of England Athletics Association.
   She thought it was a shame that money was not put in to restoring Crystal Palace, where she enjoyed running so many times. The stands were packed when she competed, not like to-day, where the stands are sparsely covered with people. She also thought more people should compete in such Championships, in order to know what it is like to run heats, semi-finals and Finals. That would enable them to have the vital experience of doing the rounds, before going to the 'Big' Games, rather than running 'One Off' events in the UK or abroad, which would not prepare them sufficiently to do the rounds in things like the World Championships. She feels the negativity is because 'some' of the coaches don't know what it is like to do those events, just reading it up in a book.
The people she most admired in athletics over the years were the Officials because they were always there to calm you down before the race and there at the end of races. They really are unsung heroes who do so much for the sport, without having the real recognition they really deserve. 'Without them we would not have a competition' she said
The athlete she looked up to as her hero: - "Jesse Owens. The fact that he got so many medals and overcame adversity."
How did it all begin for Donna Fraser "It was at Primary School when I was 8 years old. I competed for the school at the Croydon Schools. I was picked up by a local club which was Croydon Harriers. One of the coaches there said 'Come down and join'. That was how it all started"
       'I won six English Schools Championships over 200m. The 200m was not going as well after that so I stepped up to the 400 and my 200m times came down.'
       I remember talking to Lee Evans at the Mexico Olympics and him saying he did over-distance work like 300's and 600's and became a 400 runner. Did that happen with her? Donna had similar thoughts on that 'Definitely!' she said.
Her coach was Ayo Falola. 'He was a sprinter himself for Woodford Green and coaches mainly 800 now'
       Was there a particular moment she felt she was 'On Fire' and had a chance to make the top as an International?
       "To be honest I can't pick a particular moment. I have always had it from the age of 8. I have loved the sport. I loved winning which helps obviously. With athletics you get a different vibe compared to any other sport. The competitiveness is there but you are still friends with those you are competing with, which is great. I have always had that feeling, to keep wanting to excel, to do better each time."
As an 'Under 13' she ran 25.7 for 200m at Crystal Palace in 1985 and 23.69 as an 'Under 17'.
Perhaps her first really big individual international success was when she won the gold medal in the 1991 European Junior Championships 400m Final in Thessalonica, Greece in 52.4.
One must point out here that Donna Fraser made the UK Olympic team four times; the first one being in Atlanta in 1996.
1998 was a special memory that stands out for her, as she obtained three medals in the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur in September of that year
She was 3rd in the 400 Final in 51.01; obtained a silver in the 4x400 and a bronze in the 4x100

   "4x100 was a surprise. I did not expect it in the 4x100" (1st Australia 43.39; 2 Jamaica 43.49; 3rd UK 43.69-( UK team Marcia Richardson, Donna Fraser; Simmone Jacobs; and Joice Maduaka)
In the 4x400m relays she was very successful with a European bronze in Budapest, in the same year as the Commonwealth.
In the world Championships she obtained relay bronze medals in both 2005 in Helsinki and 2007 in Osaka but there was one relay she was not quite so happy about and that was the 2004 Olympic Final.
     The team were 4th in the 4x400 relay in the Olympic Games in Athens in 2004 in 3:25.12
(Fraser, Murphy, Ohuruogu, McConnell), behind the winners USA who did 3:19:01. "There was a whole controversy about us getting elevated into the bronze medal position for those Games. That was due to one of the American team being caught for drugs who helped the team get to the Final. There was a lot of controversy around that. Last year when we were told we were getting the medals. 'Then we weren't' It was a question of. 'Then we were!' 'Then we weren't!' In the end the whole argument was we were not getting them, which was totally unfair. I was gutted as were the other team members.  Reality in 'Black & White' they should have given up their medals and it should be ours. One tries not to have sour grapes but there was nothing one could do about it. When you live for that moment to get an Olympic medal when it is stolen from you it is not fair!."      
One must point out now that at Sydney in 2000  Donna Fraser came fourth in the Olympic Final, in her best ever time of 49.79 which was really good.
(1 Cathy Freeman (Australia) 49.11; 2 Lorraine Graham (Jamaica) 49.58; 3 Katherine Merry (GBR) 49.72; Donna Fraser (GBR) 49.79; 5 Ana Guevara (Mexico) 49.96; 6 Heide Seyerling (RSA) 50.5; 7 Falilat Ogunkoya (Nigeria) 50.12; 8 Olga Kotlyarov (Russia) 51.04.).
         "I was gutted"
Every book said she made the Olympic Final which is fantastic and it is only one away from a medal
       "I know, but it was the fact it was so close to a medal. If I had been further behind and come fourth but the fact that it was so close. 'Hey Ho' it was a team mate who got the medal Katherine Merry so, I can’t complain. Another one to add to our medal table.'
She continued
'It was in one of the races that will always be remembered.'
   Donna's memories of the race: "I was in Lane 2. Memories are more of the last 150m when I realised I was in last place. I started to put a bit of speed in'

                                                                     IN THE ZONE
  'I was too focused I got in the zone too much and so you are not aware of your surroundings. I was not aware that they were so far ahead of me till the last 150 or so. Then I actually started to kick in and actually ran the race. My last 100m was quicker than anyone else in the race.' 'He Ho' You live and learn!, she said philosophically!

                                    A SURPRIING DOUBLE AT THE AAA'S AND TRIALS

In 2005 at the Trials in Manchester. That was a big memory for her. (23.21/51.27. 200/400 Finals, on the same afternoon on the 10th of July, 2005) (It appears the last person to do the double in the Women's AAA championships was in 1932 by Nellie Halstead - 220/440)

                                   DONNA FRASER IS A GREAT INSPIRATION AFTER ADVERSITY

She announced her retirement from competing at high level and to return to work full time at EDF Energy after her final major 400 in the 2009 British Grand Prix at Gateshead where she finished 7th with a time of 54.11
      "I came out of retirement in 2012 to compete. I had been diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009. That was one of the reasons I had retired. I came out of retirement for inspirational reasons for myself and to show to others, you can come through the other end and achieve 'Great' things'.
'I was working full time and you can’t get that high level now and try and make the team, when you are working full time and run at a a high level as well'
'It would be a long shot but I was so pleased I gave it a shot. It did not matter that I did not get to the final at the trials but I was competing again and in a lane in the stadium I loved at Alexander Stadium, Birmingham. (She was 4th in her heat 2 in 55.28 but ran 54.85 in the Bedford International).

As a Veteran she did run.
(At the Southern Athletics League 2 SE on the 14th of July winning the 'B' 100/200 12.3/24.8)
"I did help Croydon out in a couple of competitions but I did get the odd look now and again!" Why are you doing Vets?.
'However I do think the Masters are amazing people.'
Doing the sport for so many years for me it is hard to keep that motivated and it is hard to keep going. (Of course talking in 2014) 'I love it but I know when it was time to hang up my spikes. It is nice to give something back, even if I can inspire one youngster to come through I want to give my knowledge back for those coming through. Our future is tomorrow.'
       'I have good memories. I made lots of friends from abroad and I was lucky enough to be able to train with Kathy Freeman in 2000 and she was one of the 'Greats' over 400m. I have been in positions I was so grateful for. I would not be the athlete I was towards the end of my career without those people and that journey.'

Alastair Aitken

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