• Phil Packer

Former gymnast and Sports Writer, Blogger and Vlogger, Jo Gunston, joins the BRIT Ambassador family

We are delighted that Jo has joined our BRIT Ambassador family.

Jo was an elite gymnast whose Olympic dreams ended due to a stress fracture diagnosis, followed by a spinal fusion operation. Her love of sport formed an alternative journey, leading to a career as a sports writer for clients including The Sunday Times, BBC Sport and live blogging the Rio Olympic Games for Yahoo.

Jo Gunston - Former gymnast and Sports Writer, Blogger and Vlogger

“Having been injured at 17, at the very early stages of my gymnastics career, I experienced a challenging period with mental health as I came to terms with the loss of my identity as ‘Jo the Gymnast’, and the curtailment of my Olympic ambitions. Heading to Bournemouth University provided an opportunity to not only further my education but also explore who I was away from the gym. This was exciting but also daunting so I very much appreciate some of the pressure and anxieties that young adults face at this time in their lives. So yes, my journey took an unexpected turn, however I have instead forged a career in sport media over the past 20 years, writing for the likes of The Sunday Times, BBC Sport and live blogging the Rio Olympics for Yahoo. I’ve interviewed the likes of Sir Mo Farah, Dina Asher-Smith, Max Whitlock, Nile Wilson and Laura Trott and have also achieved an alternative Olympic dream – performing as a dancer at the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony.

I wish I had recognised much earlier that I needed additional help in managing my mental health, specifically anxiety, and needed additional support from those around me. This is why the British Inspiration Trust’s Vision resonates with me both personally and professionally in uniting Paralympians, Olympians and sports personalities to deliver inspiration, encouragement and support to the millions of students at universities and colleges throughout the UK who are increasingly living with mental health challenges.

With so many charities struggling to fundraise during the COVID-19 pandemic, I am really pleased that BRIT has also partnered with four additional mental health charities, which support students and young adults. All donations raised by the BRIT 2021 Challenge – an inclusive feel-good fundraiser open to every UK university, college and student union to cover a 2,021 mile distance between now and July 1 via individual activities such as hand-cycling, swimming and paddle-boarding but working as a team – will be shared equally between PAPYRUS – Prevention of Young Suicide, Nightline Association, Student Minds, the Charlie Waller Trust, and BRIT.

Universities and colleges just need to embrace the BRIT 2021 challenge by entering a team and championing the opportunity to take part, encouraging both student and staff participation, on campus or at home. Teams can be a whole university, students’ union, campus, department or even a sports team. The idea is to encourage as many students and staff to take part as possible. So I am delighted to be joining the BRIT Ambassador family and look forward to encouraging and supporting students at Bournemouth University as they take on the BRIT 2021 Challenge. I also hope to introduce Olympians, Paralympians and sports personalities to the BRIT Ambassador family so we can encourage more universities and colleges to enter teams and take on the BRIT 2021 Challenge in order to support and improve young adult mental health throughout the UK.”

Jo Gunston - Former gymnast and Sports Writer, Blogger and Vlogger

Jo completed her Bachelor of Arts in Tourism Studies at Bournemouth University, and after an 18-month foray as a Florida-based travel consultant in her first post-university job, returned to the coast to co-run free local lifestyle magazine, DV8. After the publication folded Jo moved to London.

Between 2007 and 2019, Jo worked as a Sub-Editor for The Sunday Times. Since 2012, and in between freelance jobs, Jo publishes the sport life blog www.sportsliberated.com accompanied by Sports Liberated TV on YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram social media channels. The platforms house sport and adventure-related blogs and vlogs focusing on entertainment and travel. Her interviews have featured elite athletes including Sir Mo Farah, Max Whitlock, Dina Asher-Smith and Laura Trott. A video interview with sprinters Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Carmelita Jeter has had 32,000 hits to date.

Jo with Max Whitlock

Jo has been a freelance sports writer for more than 20 years, with clients ranging from The Sunday Times Magazine, Sport magazine, Women in Sport and BBC Sport online. The latter featured an interview with former British gymnast and three-time world champion, Beth Tweddle, who spoke about the problems of puberty for young sportswomen.

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Time remaining to complete the BRIT 2021 Challenge 

(1st July 2021)

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