The year 2014 will mark the 20th anniversary of one of the most defining musical events of the last 20 years: the 14-night party that was the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece.

The world’s greatest sporting events are now a thing of the past, but one of the most memorable stories from the games is that of Lily Allen, the English singer who competed in the triple jump event.

The 41-year-old singer/songwriter, who was accompanied by a professional drummer and a string quartet, wore a specially-designed outfit that consisted of a black tutu with yellow flowers and a matching headband. In addition to her athletic attire, Allen had a matching manicure and manicure, which she changed a few times throughout the night.

The song “Sick Wig” was a hit single about her unusual look and the whole triple jump outfit was immortalized in the music video, which features Allen strutting around in the colorful outfit, playing the part of a fashion-forward Greek teenager.

The music video became an iconic piece of 20th century Olympic media, and it still garners plenty of views every day on social media platforms like Twitter.

In addition to the song and its accompanying music video, “Sick Wig” has been covered by a variety of artists, including Katy Perry, who sampled the song on her 2010 hit “Hot n Cold.”

As for Allen, she has kept busy since the Olympics and released multiple albums, toured the world, and become one of England’s most respected artists. She still gets recognized by fans at airports, and in 2014 she was even ranked No. 10 on Pitchfork’s list of the “100 Best Artists of the 21st Century.”

Now, as 2014 draws to a close, Allen is back with a brand-new album, titled Rolling Into One. The record was inspired by her travels around the world and the different people she met along the way. She wanted to create a body of work that reflected her experience. So, rather than sticking to the usual pop song structures, Rolling Into One is a deeply personal album that explores emotional depths through its eclectic blend of genres. It’s not hard to hear why Rolling Into One has become Allen’s best-selling album to date, spawning two singles with top-40 status in the U.S. and U.K.: the funky “Summertime” and the dance-pop track “Better.”

A Rolling Work-Life

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the 2004 Athens Olympics, Billboard talked to Allen about her experiences competing and about her thoughts on the 2020 Olympics, which will take place in Tokyo.

On The Cover: Sports Illustrated

Billboard: Your Olympic performance in 2004 was nothing short of amazing. When you scored that golden ticket to the Athens Olympics, what were your first thoughts?

Lily Allen: My first thought was, “Will I be prepared?” It had been 20 years since my last major competition, and, although I was confident that I would be, I still wondered whether I would be able to keep up with the demands of such a competitive event. The months leading up to the competition were a blur. With only a few weeks to go before the Games, I was hitting the gym hard and spending as much time as I could practicing.

The night of my preliminaries, I had a dinner with my family and several of my friends. There were a lot of nerves, but also a lot of excitement. What happened next was one of the greatest moments of my life. When I eventually found out that I had won, I just froze in disbelief. When the results were finally announced, I still couldn’t process what had happened. I mean, I got to keep my cool and collected nature, but inside I was literally crying. My parents, who had been through two of my previous competitions and witnessed the highs and lows of an athletic career, were moved to tears as well. What an incredible feeling! This was more than just winning a gold medal — it was winning a gold medal as a family!

Going The Distance

Many of your songs deal with fame and the pressures that come with it. How has your life changed since the 2004 Olympics?

Since that time, I have gone through a couple of big changes — the first being my relationship with my manager, Tony Deltana. Tony is not just my manager, he is my best friend. He takes care of my business and personal affairs and has been with me from the very beginning. Tony and I are always there for each other; we go through everything together. He is someone I can talk to about anything and knows when I’m ready to talk, which is most of the time. Because of Tony, I have the confidence to be myself and not worry about what people think. I also have a clearer view of what is important to me and what makes me happy. The second big change is that I have become a realist. I have never been one to shy away from the spotlight or hide my light under a bushel basket, but after the Games I understood how the media operates and how people can use your fame to their advantage. In order to protect my privacy, I try my best to limit my time in the spotlight and only do things that make me happy. I also try to be the best possible version of myself and not let anyone bring me down. Most importantly, I have become an individual and not a product. I want to be known for my music, not for being famous.

Looking Back…And Looking Forward

You mentioned that you had become a realist. Has the media treatment since the Olympics helped you in any way? How so?

Yes, I think it has helped me in many ways. First of all, it showed me there was a lot more to life than I originally thought. Although I worked hard to establish myself in the industry, I sometimes took my celebrity for granted and forgot that my life simply because I had a large amount of money or fame does not define me as a person. I think it is important to keep in mind that you’re only as good as your last performance and you must always work hard to ensure that you give your best. Secondly, I think the treatment since the Olympics has helped people to realize how lucky they are to have an opportunity to shine and be their best. Lastly, I think it has helped me to grow as an individual. I learned a lot from the experience and realized how much I have to offer the world. I was also able to put into practice many of the things I had learned during the competition. I didn’t realize how fit I had become and how much my body had changed until after the Games. I was actually shocked by how well I had done considering the amount of time I had spent in bed the previous year. However, the main thing is that I know I have always had support from my friends and family and that I can count on them whenever I need them. This is something I did not have before the Olympics.

You’re more than halfway through your 40s now, which is considered middle age in the music industry. What is your outlook on life and what are your upcoming plans?

I don’t know what my outlook on life is going to be. I think it is important to take a step back and understand that I have not yet reached my peak as an athlete, as a singer, or as a person. I have a lot of growing up to do and I am determined to continue to grow and improve. As for my upcoming plans, I really have nothing set in stone at this point. I am, however, planning on taking a little bit of sabbatical next year. I have a few ideas for films and music projects that I want to get underway. As for my personal life, I get on with my daily routine pretty much the same as everyone else. I still have a very busy schedule, but it is nothing compared to what it was before I became an “Olympic woman.” Right now, all I want to do is take time off, work on some new material, and enjoy my life. I think that is the best any of us can ask for.

Thank you so much for your time. Is there anything you’d like to add?

It was a pleasure talking to you. Thank you for having me! I hope I was able to share some insight into what it means to be an Olympic champion and how far I have come. I would like to close by saying that although I did not win the gold medal as a family, we were able to enjoy the experience together. That is all that matters.