Dawn Flockhart, sprinter turned therapist, dies at 51 after cancer fight

Dawn Flockhart, one of Scotland’s leading sprinters during the 1980s, has died following a lengthy battle against breast cancer, her family has confirmed.

Former Scottish sprinter Dawn Flockhart.

The 51-year-old, who was also an internationalist for Great Britain and Northern Ireland, had devoted her post-athletics career to the field of neurological programming and hypnotherapy from her base in West Lothian.

It was an interest, and a concern, forged during her running days while representing Edinburgh Southern Harriers and collating personal bests over a number of distances which remain in lofty positions in the all-time domestic rankings.

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Prodigious from an early age, Flockhart established a Scottish Under-15 record over 200 metres which remains unbeaten while her indoor mark at the distance was only surpassed two years ago. Her senior outdoor lifetime best of 23.71 seconds is still 15th ranked among Scots and it came amid a patch of form that brought four silver and nine bronze medals at national championships, if not an elusive gold.

That brought eight call-ups for Scotland, plus a GB vest in 1984 during an international match against Yugoslavia in the 4x400 relay. However her seventh place in that year’s Olympic trials was not enough to earn her a berth at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles.

For a long period, her achievements masked a parallel fight, against an eating disorder which began when she earned a scholarship that took her from Bathgate Academy to Florida State University. It was quietly disruptive, she later admitted, and it was only when she underwent therapy that solutions were found.

“I first discovered hypnosis because I was bulimic and my coach suggested I try it,” she said. “It worked after two sessions and I also used it for peak performance, to improve my running and to treat my phobia of snakes.

Training in the field under a number of advisors - including celebrity hypnotherapist Paul McKenna - to complement a computing degree from Napier University and a teaching qualification from Cambridge, she became a licensed practitioner who treated others in that and related disorders until what sadly proved to be a fatal illness took hold.