Joanne ‘Jo’ Pavey MBE is probably best known for winning the gold medal in the 10,000 metres at the European Athletics Championships in Zurich, Swizerland in August, 2014. She did so at the age of 40 years and 325 days, thereby becoming the oldest female European in history. Later she joked,
‘When I won at the European Championships, I got a double-barrelled surname. I was referred to as ‘Jo Pavey-Forty’.’
Nevertheless, Pavey was appointed Member of the Order of the British (MBE) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list in 2015 and earned a call-up to represent Great Britain at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janiero. Thus, she became the first British track athlete to compete at five consecutive Olympic Games.
Born in Honiton, Devon on September 20, 1973, Pavey achieved her best Olympic placing when fifth, behind Meseret Defar of Ethiopia, in the final of the 5,000 metres at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. Three years later, she finished fourth in the final of the 10,000 metres at the World Athletics Championships in Osaka, Japan. However, a decade later, in 2017, original silver medallist Elvan Abeylegesse was disqualified for taking a prohibited substance, such that Pavey was retrospectively awarded the bronze medal.
Prior to her victory in Zurich, Pavey had also won the silver medal in the 10,000 metres at the 2012 European Athletics in Helsinki, Finland. She was also a two-time medallist over 5,000 metres at the Commonwealth Games, winning silver in Melbourne in 2006 and bromze in Glasgow eight years later.
Pavey, a mother of two, admitted that the postponement of the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo until 2021 was disappointing, but nonetheless expressed her determination to ‘give it a go’. A sixth Olympic Games, at the age of 47, ultimately proved beyond her, but her never-say-die attitude remains an inspiration to athletes of all ages.