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Had there been a World Athletics Championships in his day, David Hemery would almost certainly have been among the medal winners. In 1968, when the nation stayed up into the night to see him crowned Olympic 400 metres hurdles champion in Mexico City, he came home clear of the field in a world record time of 48.1sec. It was 22 years before another Briton went faster.

Although born in Gloucestershire, Hemery spent a large part of his formative years in America after his father, an accountant, took the family to Boston. David returned as a student and, later, as athletics coach at Boston University, a post he held for seven years from 1976 to 1983.

His time there helped shape both his competitive career and his current life, in which he and a group of other former sportsmen offer their expertise as "performance consultants" to business and industry.

"In Boston I learned a lot about the can-do society," he said. "It helped me see that you have to make the effort to be more self-responsible." It is that which forms part of the message Hemery and his colleagues put across to business leaders. "It has been a phenomenally successful venture."

Now 51, he balances the stresses of the job, which can take him anywhere in the country, with tennis, swimming, cycling and a lot of running, often with his wife, Vivian, a practising homeopath, accompanying him on horseback.

They live near Marlborough, in Wiltshire, with their two sons.

Jon Culley