Athletics

Former GB Olympian Donna Hartley-Wass dies

Donna Hartley-Wass won bronze in the 1980 Olympics (©GettyImages)
Donna Hartley-Wass won bronze in the 1980 Olympics (©GettyImages).

British Olympic bronze medallist Donna Hartley-Wass has died at the age of 58.

Hartley-Wass died unexpectedly while sunbathing in her back garden in Yorkshire and was found by her husband.

As an athlete she won a bronze medal at the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow in the 4x400m.

She was also a double commonwealth champion in 1978 after she won the individual 400m and 4x400m relay in Canada. 

In 1972 she represented Great Britain at the Munich Olympics, where she was the youngest member in the British team, and won the Amateur Athletics Association 200m and the 400m in 1975. She also broke the British record for the now obsolete 440 yards in 1976.

The Southampton-born athlete was made an MBE by the Queen in 1979 and was married to actor and comedian Bobby Knutt for 26 years.

She was coached by Mike Smith, who went on the coach 400m stars Roger Black and Iwan Thomas. He paid tribute to Hartley-Wass and her career.

"Donna was one of the best athletes I've ever had to deal with, not only as an athlete but as a person," he told BBC South Today.

"It didn't take me long to work out she had talent and that she wanted to develop.

"Sometimes in athletics it is felt you have to have the facilities, but you don't. You have to have the ability."

The media branded Hartley-Wass the 'golden girl of British athletics' but her career was cut short by problems with her Achilles tendon.

She originally ran under her maiden name Donna Murray and after her athletics career, became a body builder and was crowned Miss Great Britain in 1988.

 

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