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Tonja Buford-Bailey

With a talent for track and hailing from the same town as the greatest ever one lap hurdler Buford-Bailey’s career got off to a flying start. “I’m from Dayton, Ohio and used to drive down Edwin C Moses Boulevard every single day,” she says. “That’s the reason I ran that event. He was my hero.” Hers was a competitive career that spanned more than a decade at the top of the sport and took in three Olympic Games appearances. In 1995, at the World Championships in Gothenburg, she broke the world record in the 400m hurdles final yet still found one competitor ahead of her. Just 0.01sec separated her and American teammate Kim Batten in the greatest ever women’s one lap hurdles race. Lessons learnt from her coach, Gary Winckler, have played a huge role in her own coaching philosophy. Indeed in 2003, it was Winckler who persuaded her to leave her teaching job and take a coaching post at the University of Illinois. After 17 years in the collegiate system, Buford-Bailey has moved on to Austin, Texas where she is working with professional athletes. “One of the things Gary ingrained in me was the fitness side,” she says. “We go hard in the Fall to make sure that by the time we get to the Spring and start the technical stuff the fitness is there.” “Patience” and “trust in the coach” are key watchwords. Sport permeates her family. Her husband Victor was an accomplished wide receiver with four years in the NFL, while her son is a collegiate basketball player, and her daughter, in a gap year between high school and college, plays volleyball.