Mike Rowbottom

So I read that Sunday's (July 21) International Association of Athletics Federations Diamond League/Müller Anniversary Games action at the London Stadium will be preceded by a 4x100 metres Legends Relay.

Eight mixed teams will race against each other with 24 of Britain's finest athletes involved, along with a sprinkle of celebrities.

And – oh my. Look at those names. I don't know which lane they will all be running in but I know this – they are all running down memory lane as far as I am concerned.

"The line-up will feature medal-winning athletes from four decades including 1984 Olympic javelin champion Tessa Sanderson and 1984 Olympic 3,000m silver medallist Wendy Sly," it was announced.

"They will be joined by Los Angeles relay bronze medallist Simmone Jacobs, 1992 4x400m relay bronze medallist Jennifer Stoute, 2004 Olympic sprint relay gold medallist Mark Lewis-Francis and 2004 Paralympic champion Danny Crates.

"Londoner and former double world 400m champion Christine Ohuruogu will also line-up alongside 2008 Olympic javelin bronze medallist Goldie Sayers and 2010 European and Commonwealth 110m hurdles champion Andy Turner."

Already my mind is racing around like, well, like a willing dog that has just had six balls thrown for it at once. If I may so express it.

Now, to prevent me running off in all directions, I'm going to have to be disciplined about this, as far as possible. Which means I will, by way of programme notes, offer a few recollections and celebrations…

Tessa Sanderson competing at her sixth Olympics, the Atlanta 1996 Games, 12 years after winning the javelin title in Los Angeles ©Getty Images
Tessa Sanderson competing at her sixth Olympics, the Atlanta 1996 Games, 12 years after winning the javelin title in Los Angeles ©Getty Images

Sanderson. It's May 1996. 

Later in the year, the javelin gold medallist at the 1984 Los Angeles Games will return to the United States and become a six-time Olympian. 

Now, she is sitting in the foyer of the Waltham Forest Pool and Track after a training session and speaking about the prospect of competing in Atlanta. She stops as she realises she is being watched from the pool observation window near her table by a small boy in goggles, who goggles for as long as his breath holds out before rising from view, and then returning.

Like something out of a Bill Forsyth film, the scene suggests a surreal variation on the theme of life in a goldfish bowl. Sanderson laughs raucously…

And that reminds me of a similarly distracting moment while interviewing Lewis-Francis while he was training in Paphos ahead of the Athens 2004 Olympics.

Suddenly, he stops answering the routine opening question I have asked.

"Oh damn, sorry," he says, staring fixedly over my shoulder at the little wall that separates our hotel terrace from the crowded swimming pool below, and the uncluttered Mediterranean beyond.

"What is it?" I ask.

"A lizard. Straight down there. That's massive, isn't it? If it doesn't come over here it'll be all right, won't it? Damn."

Our little friend, perhaps a foot long from the tip of his tail to the end of his pale green nose, pauses for a moment before disappearing behind a bank of geraniums.

"A bit different from Birmingham," I say.

"Yeah. Definitely. You don't get them in Birmingham, I'll tell you that now. Not at all."

I resume questioning, sketching a parallel between Lewis-Francis, who has found life in the senior ranks a more testing proposition in the years since his all-conquering days as a junior, and his new training partner, Christian Malcolm, who encountered a similar difficulty before him.

"It's massive," Lewis-Francis replies. "I ain't never seen one of them before. Is that a gecko?"

"Yeah, it might be."

Trying to pin down this bundle of nervous energy and world-class talent is never an easy thing to do. 

A few minutes earlier, wedged into a sofa and surrounded by questioning journalists, he had been palpably uneasy, jiggling his legs as if they were about to demand freedom. He seemed to be fighting the urge to burst out of his seat and sprint away from everything.

Goldie Sayers earning an Olympic bronze medal in the javelin at the 2008 Beijing Games 	– a medal she will belatedly receive this weekend in London ©Getty Images
Goldie Sayers earning an Olympic bronze medal in the javelin at the 2008 Beijing Games – a medal she will belatedly receive this weekend in London ©Getty Images

I suggest he is at the stage where action rather than words is what matters.

"That's definitely it," he says. "This year's a big year for me. My first Olympics – I've got to qualify, obviously, but I know I've got a good chance of doing that. 

"But I'm pretty nervous at the same time. And I don't really want to over-speak, by saying I'm going to do this and I'm going to do that. 

"I don't want to excite anybody yet. I want to compete first and see what happens. Because anything can happen."

Oh yes, Mark. A gold medal in the sprint relay, after holding off world record holder Maurice Greene. That can happen…

Back to the women's javelin. It's 2007, and Sayers is reflecting ruefully, actually painfully, on her failure to do better than fifth in the previous year's Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, where gold had been earned in 60.72m. This was well within her scope, given that she had recently hoisted the British record to 65.05m.

"I would have loved to re-wind 12 months, but you can't do that," she said. "This sport is about winning medals – but I would exchange a Commonwealth gold for an Olympic medal any day."

The following year, in Beijing, another British record of 65.75m would – eventually – earn her that Olympic medal, with the retrospective disqualification for doping of Russia's Mariya Abakumova promoting the Briton to her rightful place. She will receive that medal at this weekend's meeting.

So many names. So little space. I could go on. I will a bit.

Jacqui Agyepong. A wonderfully graceful sprint hurdling talent. After an apparently effortless win in a Great Britain versus Russia match in 1995, the 25-year-old – who, like her triple-jumping brother Francis, is a qualified chef – reflects on her decision to concentrate full-time on her running.

"British women are sick and tired of being put down," she says fiercely. "Now we are ready to do what we are capable of doing."

Mark Hylton. Same year. He's 18, looking ahead to running over 400m at the World Indoor Championships in Barcelona. 

He recalls how, at his old training track near Windsor Castle, he endured facilities he described as "character-building". As the track was not lit, he and his fellow runners often found themselves running in relative darkness with only a light over the finish line and the headlamps of passing cars to guide them. 

At 5ft 8in, he is used to dealing with the flying elbows of his taller compadres. "I believe I will be able to handle myself in Barcelona," he says with a smile…

Dalton Grant – a high jumper whose talent and nerve earned him European Indoor and Commonwealth gold ©Getty Images
Dalton Grant – a high jumper whose talent and nerve earned him European Indoor and Commonwealth gold ©Getty Images

Memory Lane. It is thronged. One more – how can I leave out Dalton Grant, one of the gutsiest athletes I have ever had the pleasure of meeting? 

This triple Olympic high jumper never got the tangible rewards his talent and nerve deserved – but he finished with an indoor best of 2.37m, which ain't bad by anyone's reckoning, and, very happily, two gold medals from the 1994 European Indoor Championships and the 1998 Commonwealth Games.

Sweet indeed. In 1989 – oh yes – Grant, who is 6ft 1in, is telling me how he has overcome the mental resistance involved in trying to beat Britain's then number one, the 6ft 8in Geoff Parsons. Of some of his fellow Brits, he opines: "Parsons brainwashed them. They thought he was so tall that they couldn't beat him."

For Grant, watching the relatively diminutive Canadian jumper Milt Ottey defeat Parsons to win the 1986 Commonwealth title in Edinburgh was instructive.

"I thought, if he can do it, I can do it," he says. "Milt told me that I was too tense when I jumped. He said how important it was to relax, to flow over the bar."

Hey ho. As Martin Mull – yes, the Martin Mull who was more recently a regular in Sabrina the Teenage Witch – once sang: "Let's Just Say Hors d’Oeuvres…"