Photography by Mia Foster and Iqra Saied
Diane Modahl MBE is one of Britain’s most successful 800m runners. She won a Gold Medal in the 1990 Commonwealth Games and followed this up with a further Silver and Bronze Medal. Diane represented Britain in an impressive four Olympic Games, from 1988 to 2000 and was unbeaten for six consecutive seasons by any other British athlete over her specialist distance of 800m. As one of Britain’s most accomplished middle distance runners, she held the English, British and Commonwealth records for both 800m and 600m.
After retiring from athletics, Diane and her husband Olympic coach Vicente Modahl, established the Diane Modahl Sports Foundation, a registered charity. Her early experiences as a young person from a deprived community, inspired her to establish a youth foundation to help those most in need. DMSF champions young people from disadvantaged areas across the North West, enabling them to make the most of themselves in sport, education and employability.
Diane Modahl competing at the 2000 Sydney Olympics
Born in 1966, Diane grew up in Longsight, and trained at Sale Harriers from the age of 11. She won the 1984 English Schools 800 metres title in 2:05.7 and emerged as one of Britain's top 800m runners after winning the AAA Championships title in 1986 aged 20.
"On a pretty much average day whilst in my high school playground in Moss Side, my life changed forever, based on the words of a then stranger. Coach Alan Robertshawe talked about ‘potential’ and that if I worked hard I could do well in athletics. It was a chance meeting and this opportunity is what is special about Manchester. We lift each other up and see the best in people".
Her career went from strength to strength until following a false positive drug test. Diane was sent home from the 1994 Victoria Commonwealth Games in Canada by the British Athletics Federation (BAF). She was subsequently banned from competition. Diane was innocent and engaged lawyers who identified that the laboratory in Lisbon which tested her urine sample had major flaws in their processing. She was later fully exonerated following a successful appeal and the BAF lifted her ban in July 1995.
The Diane Modahl Story
World Championships, Stuttgart - 1993 (Photo: Mark Shearman)
Diane and her husband Vicente wrote a book about their experiences, The Diane Modahl Story - Going the Distance. The case was ultimately heard in the High Court, Court of Appeal and the House of Lords in London. All three courts stated in their summaries that Modahl "had never used any drugs and should be seen as being innocent of all charges for all future".
Diane returned to competition in 1996 going on to compete in the Atlanta and Sydney Olympic Games and going on to win a Bronze medal in the Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games in 1998 before finally retiring in 2002.
After retiring from athletics in 2002, Diane and her husband Olympic coach Vicente Modahl, established the Diane Modahl Sports Foundation(DMSF) a registered charity. Her early experiences as a young person from a deprived community, inspired her to establish a youth foundation to help those most in need.
DMSF champions young people from disadvantaged areas across the North West, enabling them to make the most of themselves in sport, education and employability.
In 2004, Diane was a contestant in Series 3 of I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!
The Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham asked Diane in 2020 to lead the Young Person’s Task Force’s engagement with young people and to listen to what they need as part of the COVID-19 recovery process. This involves direct engagement with young people and youth organisations as well as with colleges, training providers and business. The Task Force works with young people up to 30 years old.
"There is so much to love about Manchester. The vibe, the culture, the people, the music, the food - in fact, Manchester full stop".
"This city has given me the opportunity to be me, to fulfil my potential. It has made me who I am, and I am proud to call it my home".
In 2002, Manchester Metropolitan University, University of Manchester, Salford University and UMIST conferred joint honorary degrees of Doctor of Letters on Diane Modahl. She was awarded an MBE in The Queen’s 2018 Birthday Honours List for services to Sport and Young People in the North West of England.
THE SHOOT: St Peter's Square, Manchester
Manchester Central Library, Town Hall Extension, Midland Hotel and the red telephone boxes
Student reflection: Mia Foster
The shoot with Diane was very successful, she was great to work with, as she was very natural in front of the camera. The photography took place on a chilly but bright Spring morning in St Peter's Square. The grand surroundings made the perfect location to reflect Diane's new civic role. We only had to move short distances to change the background and we tried to capture a range of formal and relaxed images.
Diane was really friendly, supportive, and happy to suggest poses, making the photography an enjoyable experience. I am really happy with my final images and believe they capture Diane as a proud Mancunian who is dedicated to her work in the city.