Gathered round the TV at the Cook home in Walsall last week, the family were surprised. They'd been watching the British 400 metres double by Christine Ohuruogu and Nicola Sanders: "Mummy, you would have won!"

Mum is Kathy Cook, whose UK record, 49.43 seconds, has stood since 1984 when she won Los Angeles Olympic bronze. But she agrees it may not much longer.

Cook was Kathy Smallwood when she first began winning individual championship medals 25 years ago this month. She had helped England win sprint relay gold in the 1978 Edmonton Commonwealth Games, and Britain to silver at the European Championships in Prague that year, while in the 1980 Moscow Olympics she won relay bronze after having reached both sprint finals.

But at the 1982 European Championships in Athens she won 200m silver behind Barbel Wockel (East Germany) with a Commonwealth record of 22.13sec. Two days later, she took silver with the GB 4 x 100m relay team, then came home to London where she set a UK 400m record of 50.46sec. The following month, in Brisbane, she was second in the Commonwealth Games 200m to Merlene Ottey - still running in Osaka last week - and also relay gold.

Cook was dogged by athletes who beat her with the help of illegal drugs. The East German regime blocked her in Europe, and Angela Taylor (who confessed in the wake of the Ben Johnson affair that she was a serial drug user) denied her 200m gold at the 1986 Edinburgh Commonwealth Games where Cook won four medals: relay gold and silver, 200m silver, and 400m bronze. Even Ottey proved a defaulter.

Cook still holds the UK records at 100, 200, 300 and 400m, but rates Los Angeles her finest hour. "I always felt the 400m was my strongest event," she said this weekend, "but I think my record is on the way out. It's good for Britain that we have two girls doing so well. It's definitely time it went.

"I was always just pleased to run good times, and was very disappointed when it became apparent how many people had taken drugs. But I haven't let it affect my own memories. Yes, I probably was denied medals, if you look at it that way, but I was just thrilled to bits and still am. There's no point thinking otherwise. It just spoils your own recollections, and you can never go back to those medal ceremonies. I was really delighted and proud."

She achieved all that while working part time, and no lottery support.

Now 47, she is married to Gary Cook, an 800m contemporary of Seb Coe. He helped Britain to Olympic relay silver in 1984. Both teach, and have three children She admits she sometimes likes to "wind the children up, that my pb personal best is quicker than some of today's winning times. But with the passage of time I wonder how on earth I did it. I was a nervous wreck. I look at Christine and Nicola. They look so good, so in control. They are mentally so strong. Perhaps that's what I lacked."