Tessa Sanderson
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Tessa Sanderson

Tessa Sanderson
Tessa Sanderson-2.jpg
Sanderson in 2008
Personal information
Full nameTheresa Ione Sanderson
Born (1956-03-14) 14 March 1956 (age 63)
St Elizabeth, Jamaica
Height1.68 m (5 ft 6 in)
Weight70 kg (154 lb)
Country Great Britain (1973-1996)
Event(s)Javelin throw
Turned pro1973
Achievements and titles
Personal 73.58 m (1983)

Theresa Ione "Tessa" Sanderson, (born 14 March 1956) is an English former javelin thrower and heptathlete. A six-time Olympian in the javelin (1976-1996), she won the gold medal in 1984 for Great Britain, and in 1996 she became the second track and field athlete, after discus thrower Lia Manoliu, to compete at six Olympics.[1] She is one of only five women in history to have thrown the javelin (old model) over 73 metres. She is the first black British woman to have won an Olympic gold medal.[2]

Early life

Sanderson was born in St Elizabeth, Jamaica of Ghanaian ancestry. She later emigrated to Wolverhampton, England.[3]

Athletics career

Member of Wolverhampton & Bilston Athletic Club coached initially in the progressive days by John Moogan, and, subsequently by National Track and Field Coach Wilf Paish. Sanderson was the UK's leading javelin thrower from the mid-1970s, winning silver in the 1978 European championships and gold in the Commonwealth Games three times (1978, 1986, 1990), but was challenged during the 1980s by the up-and-coming Fatima Whitbread, with whom she shared a long-standing rivalry.

When Sanderson won the gold medal at the 1984 Summer Olympics in the javelin, becoming the first British woman ever to win Olympic gold in this event, her victory was quite unexpected. In the end, her career outlasted Whitbread's, and she competed at senior international level until 1996.

Her best performance in the javelin was 73.58 m (241 ft  in) set in Edinburgh on 26 March 1983.

Sports administration

Sanderson served as Vice-Chairman of Sport England from 1999 to 2005.

She ran an academy in Newham, London that helped to find and train athletes to represent Britain in the 2012 Summer Olympics.

In September 2009, Sanderson registered her own charity sports academy carrying on her work alongside the established Newham Sports Academy. The name of the charity is the Tessa Sanderson Foundation and Academy. The charity is helping Sanderson to work on a wider basis to help other youngsters who are disabled and non disabled achieve their goals and creating a pathway and more opportunities not just in Newham but the wider areas of London and with a vision of a national roll out.[4]

In April 2009, Sanderson again because of her work in the community made history by organising the first 10K road run to run through the Olympic Park offering the community and other visitors to Newham the Host Borough of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games a fantastic birds eye view of the Olympic 2012 athletics stadium. The Newham Classic 10K[5] was so successful that it takes place annually and has led to other active running events for anyone such as the City of London West Ham Park Runs which takes place most Sunday mornings in West Ham Park in the East End of London.

Sanderson was appointed as a board member of the Olympic Park Legacy Company chaired by Baroness Ford, to oversee and help with the formation of the Olympic Park for the Newham community and people living in the East End of London.[6]

Sanderson organised and was associated with the Redbridge 10k on 24 July 2011, which was the first ever run in the Borough of Redbridge.

Media work

In 1984, Sanderson made an appearance on Bullseye.

Starting in the late 1980s, she starred in a number of fitness videos alongside Derrick Evans.[7]

In the 1990s, she worked as a sports reporter for Sky News, and appeared alongside Cilla Black as a co-host on ITV's Surprise Surprise.

In 2005, she took part in the one-off special, Strictly African Dancing, as part of the Africa Lives season on the BBC. She was voted into third place by the viewers.

Sanderson took part in the Dancing on Ice goes Gold program on ITV, which was aired on 22 July 2012.

She also took part in a one-off exclusive BBC Red Button episode of EastEnders which was aired on 16 July 2012.

At 58 years of age, she began working as a model for the Grey Model Agency.[3]

In 2018, Sanderson took part in Channel 5's reality series Celebrity 5 Go Barging.[8]


Sanderson was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 1985 New Year's Honours, following her Olympic gold, raised to Officer (OBE) in the 1998 New Year's Honours for her charity work, and to Commander (CBE) in the 2004 New Year's Honours for her services to Sport England.

Sanderson is an honorary graduate of the University of Wolverhampton[9] and was made an Honorary Fellow of London South Bank University in 2004.[10]

In 2004 Sanderson was awarded a Sunday Times Lifetime Achievement Award.[10]

There is a housing estate named after her in her adopted home town of Wednesfield: Sanderson Park. It is located in the vicinity of the playing fields of her former school, Wards Bridge High School. There is also a road named after her in Wandsworth, South London: Tessa Sanderson Place.

Personal life

On 1 May 2010, Sanderson married Densign White, former Olympic judo athlete, at St. Paul's Cathedral in London.[11] Her bridesmaids were her fellow Olympic teammates Sharron Davies, Kelly Holmes and Christine Ohuruogu. She and White are the parents of twins Cassius and Ruby Mae.[3]

National titles

International competitions


  • Results with a q, indicate overall position in qualifying round
  • At the World Cup competitions, Sanderson was representing Europe.

See also


  1. ^ Sanderson 'ecstatic' at honour BBC Sport, 31 December 2003
  2. ^ Hubbard, Alan (15 November 2009). "Tessa Sanderson: 'I was spat on and called golliwog'". The Independent. Retrieved 2017.
  3. ^ a b c Lambert, Victoria (5 November 2016). "Tessa Sanderson: I was a mother at 57, now I'm a model at 60". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2017.
  4. ^ "The Tessa Sanderson Foundation and Academy". Tsfa.co.uk. Retrieved 2013.
  5. ^ Newham Classic 10K Archived 7 March 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ "Olympic Park Legacy Company". Legacycompany.co.uk. 29 July 2013. Archived from the original on 20 January 2010. Retrieved 2013.
  7. ^ "Tessa Sanderson-Body Blitz" – via Amazon.
  8. ^ Taylor, Frances. "Celebrity 5 Go Barging". Radio Times. Retrieved 2019.
  9. ^ "WLV dialogue" (PDF). Retrieved 2015.
  10. ^ a b "Tessa Sanderson CBE - Personally Speaking Bureau". Retrieved 2015.
  11. ^ Olympic golden girl Tessa Sanderson refuses to be married by a woman priest Archived 17 March 2011 at the Wayback Machine Great Indaba (Zimbabwe News Online), 13 June 2010

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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