Sports Gazette

The sports magazine brought to you by the next generation of sport writers

“I just got to a point where my body wasn’t going to let me do this:” Craig Winrow from Olympian to coach.

Craig Winrow is an ex-Olympian in the 800-metres who competed in the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. As a junior Craig was originally a sprinter, only making the transition to the 800 at the age of 13 after one of his teammates at Wigan Harriers pulled out of the event.

“I did the 800, didn’t like it at all. Was sick all over the place afterwards, I think I ran 2:10 for my first one and I think I would have been 13. So, it kind of made me think after that.”

Since that day, Craig stepped up to the 800m, leaving his sprints group behind. 18 months later he won his first English Schools race breaking the English Schools record. A year later he shattered the Lancashire County record running 1:51 minutes, the rest is history. In fact, it was only this year that his record was broken, over 36 years later.

Craig Winrow Holds a stop watch whilst joking with his athletes during their track workout
Craig Winrow shares jokes with his athletes at training

Curious about the intensity and volume that Craig was doing at such a young age, it made me think whether it was pure talent that got him there.

He said: “I think the focus wasn’t doing a lot of volume, but just doing enough to allow me to show my talent over 800. It just snowballed quickly I won English Schools the following year, I then came second the next year, then I ended up winning the European Juniors in 1989.”

Road to the Olympics

Before he knew it, the newspapers came calling.

The Guardian wrote: “Craig Winrow is the most exciting 800-metre prospect in Britain since the schooldays of Cram and Coe

“His sights are firmly fixed on the 1992 Olympics, but his coach believes he has every chance of winning a place in the British team for the 1988 World Junior Championships in Canada.”

Craig Winrow and I sit side by side whilst he talks about The Guardian's article which says "A star making tracks"
Click the photo to watch my interview with Craig Winrow in full.

Unfortunately, he never made the cut for the 1992 Olympics.

“For about four years I was up and down and some of it was illness, it was a bit of injury, and it took me four years before I made a senior team,” he says.

“Then all of a sudden, I think in 1994, I popped back out as a senior athlete and made my first senior team at European Indoor Championships.”

After some very impressive performances winning British Champs, coming sixth in the European Champs and then coming fourth in the Commonwealth Games. He had begun to make his mark which set him up for success at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games.

The Atlanta Games

Qualifying for the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games was a test. At the British Championships (the Olympic trials) he put himself under too much pressure

“I just needed to get in the top two. I’m going to the Olympics; I just need to get in the top two. And I just kept repeating and repeating it to myself, and I just felt drained in the final”.

A couple of weeks later there was still an opportunity to make the team and after a reset he grabbed the race by the horns and qualified for his first and his only Olympic games.

Once in Atlanta he had a successful qualifying heat, which sent him to the semi-finals.

He said: “I didn’t think I was going to make the final. I told myself that I’m going to go to Atlanta to really enjoy the experience.

“I woke up on the day of the semi-final and my body just felt awful. There was nothing I could do about it. I just tried to put it to the side and go through my normal process of my warmup. And going out there I just didn’t really deliver anything. “

Craig only competed for two years after that. Battling with an Achilles injury, he decided to bite the bullet and have an operation to fix it.

His Coaching Career

Craig Winrow shouts times out for his athletes
Craig Winrow shouting lap splits for his athletes

Whilst his Achilles was healing, he headed out to the USA with one of his friends from the running world. Before he knew it, he was offered a coaching role.

“I was there for a few months and then just one day the head coach at the university came up to me and said, would you like a job coaching? It just put me in this situation, and I knew my Achilles didn’t seem to be getting any better. I just got to a point where my body wasn’t going to let me do this. So I took up the opportunity and started coaching and was there for six years.

Seizing the opportunity, he trained as a coach at McNeese State University in Louisiana.

Since returning to the UK, he secured a job coaching at St. Mary’s Endurance Performance Centre and from there has trained Olympians such as Andrew Osagie as well as track and field rising stars such as Adelle Tracey and Tom Randolph.

Adelle Tracey 800m and 1500m rising star training at the St. Mary's Track with Craig's Group
Adelle Tracey training with Craig’s team at the St. Mary’s Endurance Performance Centre

He said: “It’s brilliant isn’t it. I’ve been fortunate to go from athlete to coach and I’ve been fortunate to be paid to do my job. I’m proud of being involved and being part of that process for that individual. And obviously, I sit there and when things happen, I have to remind myself, I’ve been part of that.”

Craig has now secured his place as a stalwart of middle-distance coaching in England, something that he would never have dreamed of when when he took his friends place in the 800m race at the age of 13.


  • George Bennett

    An aspiring athlete himself, George Bennett specialises in athletics and triathlon. Always trying to bring more fans to Track and Field through his podcasts The Elite Endurance Podcast and creating documentaries about grassroots athletics on Youtube.