Nicola Sanders made her Olympic debut at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. She qualified for the semi-finals and ran a seasons best however; this was not enough to qualify for the final. Sanders was also a member of the 4x400m relay team which finished 5th in the final. At the 2009, World Championships in Berlin qualified for the semi-finals and finished fourth. After showing great promise as a 400m hurdler, Sanders was forced to focus on the flat 400m because of persistent back and hamstring injuries. The Commonwealth Games in Melbourne was her last major championships at the 400m hurdles. Sanders won the AAA Championships in the summer of 2006 before finishing sixth against a strong field at the European Championships in Gothenburg, but the 26-year-old came to prominence in the 2007 campaign.
Sanders had the fastest time in the world prior to the European Indoor Championships in Birmingham of 50.60 but it was clear that Sanders had the potential to run faster and in the final in Birmingham, the 50-second barrier narrowly eluded her, as she blasted to a British record of 50.02, which moved her to fifth on the all-time lists. The following day, Sanders was a part of the 4x400m team, which won a bronze medal in a British record of 3:28.69. After a good indoor campaign, Sanders was tipped to break Kathy Cook’s longstanding British outdoor record, but a persistent Achilles injury badly affected the early part of her summer campaign, forcing her to miss the European Cup. Prior to the World Championships in Osaka, it appeared as though Sanders was only a pale shadow of her former self, having only broken the 51-second barrier once prior to the championships. However, things finally began to gel at the holding camp in Macau and her early season injury problems proved to be a blessing in disguise, as she peaked to perfection.
Overlooked prior to the World Championships as a medal contender, Sanders pulverised her lifetime best, lowering it from 50.68 to 49.77, which made her arguably the pre-race favourite. In the final, Sanders was off the pace in the first 200m and looked out of contention, but the European Indoor champion came into the reckoning in the final 100m, passing Jamaica’s Novlene Williams in the final stages to snatch the silver medal and inches behind Christine Ohuruogu in a lifetime best of 49.65. Adding to her growing medal tally, the 26-year-old ran a storming last leg to anchor the British team to the bronze medal in the 4x400m relay.