Fenn (nee: Mersh)
October 1974, (Leytonstone)
Green & Essex Ladies
(Crystal Palace), GBR
Mersh, the Leytonstone-born athlete began her early career as a multi-eventer.
Although already showing promise over 800m in those early days, it was the 300m
hurdles in which she took an English Schools’ Gold medal in 1990.
a music career with rock band The Business then put her athletics career on hold
and it was to be several years before we saw Fenn back at her best again.
She required four operations
but in 1997, now concentrating as an 800m runner, she made great progress as her
PB fell with regularity and from a previous best of 2:11.3 she was down to
2:05.63 by the end of the year.
She shaved that time in 1998
and down to 2:04.19.
Jo picked up a bronze medal
at the AAA Championships in 2000.
Her silver medal behind
Kelly Holmes at the AAA Indoors and then a big PB of 2:02.90 in the Norwich
Union Grand Prix really made people sit up and notice, and led to a GB debut at
the World Indoors where she just failed to make the semi-finals.
The winter campaign boosted
her confidence ahead of the track season and she started brightly as victory
came at Loughborough early into the campaign and went on to bring her PB down to
A winter training spell in
Australia did the trick for 2002 as her times continued to fall. A big
breakthrough came at the Commonwealth Games trials where she clocked 2:00.24,
and in the Games itself her first ‘sub-two’ saw her finish seventh.
Her PBs continued to fall
indoors early in 2003 and Birmingham witnessed some great displays from her as
she broke the British 1000m record with 2:38.45 in the Norwich Union Grand Prix
and then took the AAA title in 1:59.74 to go second on the UK all-time lists.
Her outdoor campaign was
delayed due to a stress fracture of the left shin but she returned in time to
book selection for the World Championships where she went close to making the
Fenn has addressed the
mechanics of her running.
“That was a contributory factor towards me being injured,” she said. “So I
have been working on my technique, trying to run more on my toes.” She
also has a new view of life.
“I was depressed about my injury but then I heard that someone close to me had
lost his son and that put things into perspective,” she
said. “The most important
thing I learnt last year was not to take life for granted.”
intervening period has given Fenn time to reappraise. And there is one thing she
finds hard to swallow — steak. A vegetarian for 15 years, she has given it up
after advice that her low iron levels could be improved by eating red meat. “So
I have been eating steak since October,” Fenn
said. “When I ate the first one it was horrible
but, with my potatoes and broccoli, it just about goes down.”
2004 with a 400m personal best of 54.57 in Pretoria and then had a great indoor
season. She won the AAA 1500m title, was second in the European Indoor Cup, and
was inside her own UK indoor 1000m mark but behind Kelly Holmes in the Norwich
Union Indoor Grand Prix.
She was just half a
second outside breaking Kelly Holmes's British Indoor 800m in Birmingham.
Norwich Union, Birmingham
World Indoor Trials
She had a great end to
the winter campaign with a Bronze medal at the World Indoor Championships at
The gold medal went to Maria Mutola
of Mozambique with Jolanda Ceplak of Slovenia taking the silver. Mutola, the
Olympic champion, took the lead with 60 metres to go and finished in one minute
58.50 seconds, holding off Ceplak by 0.22 seconds. Fenn set a British Indoor
record of 1:59.50 as she claimed the bronze.
The gutsy athlete felt
her bronze medal success proved her race tactics were right. "I am
absolutely overwhelmed," the Londoner said. "My
coach has always had belief in me and the aim was to get a medal. I just needed
"I am over the moon and
emotional," she added on BBC Radio Five Live.
beforehand that I should run an even-paced race. I wanted to run my own race.
I'm pleased it has paid off."
- Fenn lets family iron out her problems
JO FENN, the world
indoor 800m bronze medallist, has revealed one of the secrets of her
success is her mother and mother-in-law carrying out her washing and
Fenn, 29, said the first
major championship medal of her career was very much a team effort and she
praised the part her mum Marie and her mother-in-law have played in
helping with her household chores.
"Over the last six
months I've tweaked things to become even more professional and I'm even
more a 24-hour athlete," she said. "I've cut down on my
housework and my mum and mother-in-law help me out with my washing and
ironing. I've a great network behind me. My husband and I both run and we
have so many clothes that need washing. The washer is on about three times
As has been widely
reported, Fenn became a meat eater last autumn in an effort to boast iron
levels, a big sacrifice after 15 years as a vegetarian. She has also
started to go to bed even earlier - at 9-9.30pm - in an effort to gain
To start eating meat
again was particularly tough but when asked how she was finding it at the
moment, she replied: "I bloody love it, especially eating fish."
But the greatest praise
was lavished on coach Ayo Falola, of whom she said: "Ayo has always
been there and he has dedicated so much of his own time to the group. He
has taken me from a decent club athlete to a world class athlete.
had a chest infection the week before the world indoors and I felt
terrible in the heat and even worse in the semi-final but he gave me a
'Rocky' style speech before the final and it was really
Hopeful: Jo Fenn
|Jo Fenn (left) and Jade
Johnson Modelling the Olympic Kit for Athens
Jo Fenn is off to Athens to represent Great
Britain in the 800m event at the 2004 Olympics.
she talks about how she's preparing for the huge event in August and
she gives her tips for young athletes.
did you get into athletics?
From an early age I used to race my brother down the end of my
street so I always thought of myself as a runner.
I was about 12 I was introduced to a local athletics club by my PE
teacher. She was encouraging and took me down the club which was
where I got my first coach.
long have you been competing in races?
From the time I joined the club - I was put straight into a race the
obviously at that age it's all about having fun. My 100m time was
13.6 seconds so every time I raced, regardless of where I finished,
I always wanted to beat my own personal best.
you have a pop career before becoming an athlete?
Three years ago I got an acoustic guitar... I
started writing music. I thought: "These songs are quite
good!" So I sent them off to various record companies and next
thing I knew they'd been entered into the European country charts
and one of my songs had reached number 13!
Athletics takes priority
with the Olympic Games this year, but I do hope to continue a
musical career afterwards.
is your athletics hero?
I used to watch Sebastian Coe, Steve Cram, Steve Ovett, Diane Modhal
and Kelly Holmes when I was growing up so they are my British
you nervous or excited about competing in Athens?
I've competed in five major championships so far so I think it's
going to be a very similar sort of outlook.
trying to not put too much emphasis on the Olympic Games because if
I was to take a minute to think about it I think I would get really,
are you preparing for the competition - are you following a special
I train six times a week twice a day. I generally have Fridays off
and race at the weekend.
eat lots of red meat, chicken, fish, plenty of vegetables and loads
of fresh fruit - that's my diet.
I don't eat chocolate or
cakes or crisps and I don't drink alcohol either.
are you hoping to achieve at the Olympics?
I want to run the 800m in 1 min 57 secs and I
think that will guarantee a medal. If you look at previous Olympic
Games, to get a medal you have to run under 1.58 - and that's my aim
do you think about when you are running?
When I'm just running or jogging in the park I think about what I'm
having for tea or what I'll watch on TV. But in a race I'm
concentrating on my technique, I'm concentrating on the other girls
around me and I'm having to think tactically.
you got any helpful tips for someone young starting out in
is a free sport - you can go to a park and it doesn't cost you
advice for you would be to join an athletics club. That way you can
have fun and socialise and meet other people who enjoy running.
need to have a lot of self-discipline, you have to tell yourself:
"I don't want to have late nights." When you're young it's
all about having fun but if you want to persevere in the sport you
have to believe in yourself.
you train hard you're going to get success. It's that simple - work
you're thinking about joining a club now just think, in eight years
time you could actually be competing in London 2012!
Fenn to Miss Track Season
May 2005, UK Athletics
keyhole surgery to her left knee this weekend, Jo Fenn, the 800m
runner from Leytonstone has been advised not to compete this summer,
but focus on qualifying for the Commonwealth Games in 2006.
who sustained a stress reaction to the knee whilst warm weather
training in South Africa early this year said: 'We
were half way through our usual morning session when I felt pain in
the knee, at the time I thought it was just a niggle, but later
scans showed more serious damage. The patella is out of line,
which is pressurising the surrounding area causing inflammation and
stress on the cartilage. UK Athletics have been fantastic with
me and without their expertise and support in providing medical
assistance it would have been very hard for me.'
ever, Jo refuses to be downbeat by the situation citing the
Commonwealth Games or the Indoor World Championships in Moscow as
comeback targets for 2006: 'The good
thing about my sport is that we have a major championship every year
and on the positive side and with huge thanks to the EIS (English
Institute of Sport) I'm much stronger than in previous years.
They have given my coach (Ayo Falola) a specific
programme to improve my core strength so I can focus all my efforts
on remaining in good shape throughout the summer.'
asked about Kelly Holmes' final season Jo said: 'I'm
bitterly disappointed to not have the privilege of running against
Kelly in her final domestic season. She has been an
inspiration to me over the last couple of seasons and I really
wanted to go out there this summer and see how my hard work over the
winter would stand up against a double Olympic gold medallist.
However, I can take heart from the fact that Kelly was 34 in Athens
and I will only be 33 in Beijing, who knows I may end up doing the
TV commentary on her races this summer.'
from the track the injury has given Jo the opportunity to pick up
her guitar and get back into the recording studio to focus on her
other passion of song writing.