TOPPLING Sally Gunnell’s 36-year-old British age-17 record hasn’t prevented rising athletics star Lucy-Jane Matthews from forming a close bond with the 1992 Olympic champion that she says is helping propel her to new heights.

The Salisbury native sent shockwaves throughout the track and field world with a 100m hurdles time of 13.25s in August 2020, before shaving off another five hundredths off that personal best en route to silver at the British Championships a month later.

Achieving such feats prior to her 18th birthday was a scenario far beyond what Matthews could have imagined eight years earlier, when first inspired to give the sport a go while cheering on Team GB’s Super Saturday exploits at London 2012.

And while she harbours Commonwealth and Olympic ambitions, the 2019 European Junior bronze medallist explains how Gunnell’s catalogue of knowledge and experience is helping her stay level-headed.

'She's become a great mentor to me'

“I’ve been to Sally’s house a couple of times, and she’s become a really great mentor to me. There aren’t many more decorated athletes in the sport so she’s brilliant to learn from,” she said.

“The Commonwealth Games next year is something I’m looking at - especially with it being a home Championships - and then the Paris Olympics in 2024 could be a really exciting opportunity.

“The last year or so has been a bit of a blur - especially the British Champs. Being on that stage pushed me and allowed me to step up, but I’ve come a long way quickly and I’m trying not to rush things.

“I’ve had issues with my hamstring and illness this year so the rest of 2021 is a bit uncertain, but I’d like to think I can be competitive at the European and World Junior Championships this summer. The main thing is improving year-on-year and enjoying it.”

Matthews’ burgeoning athletics career is fuelled by a partnership between Entain - owner of Ladbrokes and Coral - and SportsAid, which provides vital funding for training, travel, equipment and access to mentoring.

Having initially tried her hand at the combined events in Salisbury, Matthews has gone on to reap the rewards of specialising in hurdles at Southampton Athletic Club, and Birchfield Harriers.

But developing traits of flexibility and adaptability are now standing her in good stead as she looks to combine a maths degree at Loughborough University alongside her sporting commitments, following the completion of her A-levels this summer.

She added: “I moved up to Loughborough recently so I could keep training, and I’ve got a new training group and coach which is really exciting going forward.

“I absolutely love the academic side of my life and I’m really looking forward to hopefully starting university. I know it’s going to be a challenge but it’s one that I enjoy, and one I seem to embrace.

“Having another avenue to apply myself and push myself is really positive, and I think if anything it can really help me get to where I want to go with athletics.”

Entain, owner of Ladbrokes and Coral, is proud to be championing the next generation of British sporting heroes by providing talented young athletes with financial support and personal development opportunities in partnership with SportsAid. Visit to find out more.