Gavin Pavey was having trouble believing his eyes one day last summer. He was among the crowd at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, balancing his four-year-old son Jacob on his knee, as his (famously) 40-year-old wife was surging round the track to the soundtrack of patriotic roaring and a thrilling 5,000 metre race came down to the wire. He knew there was no realistic chance she could possibly get a medal. Except, suddenly, there was.
“I’m sitting there thinking there’s not much chance of Jo winning a medal. It would be a miracle if she did," he said.
"But later on when the leading group broke away at the front, she was still with them. I’m thinking: ‘She must be feeling quite good if she can keep up the pace with three Kenyans.' She just wouldn’t give up. And then I was just shouting and screaming and it was all a bit of a blur.”
With good cause. Jo Pavey made history in 2014, becoming the oldest woman to claim medals at two major Championships. A mother of two at the age of 40, she won bronze in Glasgow, a whisker shy of the silver, and then went on to win gold in the 10,000m a mere ten days later at the European Championships in Zurich. She out-fought a Frenchwoman 16 years her junior and 20 seconds faster this season. It sealed for Pavey the most wonderful summer of sport of her life, at an age when many athletes are long retired.
Pavey is nominated for the BT Sport Action Woman of the Year Award
“I’d describe this year as very, very surprising," she said. "I was thinking in the spring maybe I could just scrape getting in the team, but probably not. I was just coming back from having a baby and it seemed unrealistic. So I was absolutely thrilled when I got selected for the team. But then to get any medals… to get a gold in a major championship - I find it surreal.
“I’d been trying to do it for so many years and then to do it when I’m 40 and a busy mum with two young children - I’m really pleased and very surprised and amused.”
Not least, perhaps, because her whole career has been a juggling act, a battle against various difficulties. At the very outset she missed a monumental six years because of a troublesome foot injury. Most athletes would have been long gone into other employment but what she calls “determination”, and what her husband (and coach) refers to as “stubbornness”, kept her motivation intact.