Over the weekend I posted about Keshorn Walcott being the first *person* to win an Olympic gold medal for javelin.
And many of you lovely people flooded my DMs to let me know that I was in fact incorrect. While Keshorn Walcott is the first Black man to win, he wasn’t the first Black *person* to do so. That distinction belongs to Tessa Sanderson (CBE) who won the Olympic gold for javelin all the way back in 1984.
This is a learning experience for me as well as you. I have enjoyed doing the research and fact checking to create content here for the last few days and so I immediately immersed myself in all things Tessa Sanderson so I can post about her today with you all.
Theresa (Tessa is a nickname) was born in Jamaica and raised there by her grandmother until she was 6 as her parents moved to the UK and waited to establish themselves before sending for her. The Caribbean connection delights me as it means I still get to stick close to my theme.
She first threw a javelin at the age of 14 after betting a friend a pack of crisps about who could throw it further. This is quite similar to Keshorn’s story. I’m noticing a “by chance” trend from these javelin throwers. She went on to achieve 10 new UK senior records and 5 Commonwealth records for javelin throwing.
Of all of my research 3 things really stood out.
Perseverance – Before winning her gold medal, in 1981 she ruptured her Achilles’ tendon and broke a bone in her throwing arm. That she was able to recover enough to win is a testament to her hard work, determination and discipline.
Recognition & reward – So many of the articles I read talked about how she hasn’t received the recognition she should have not just for her sporting achievements but her ongoing work in the field. I wonder why that might be? She herself talks about times when she was left out and overlooked especially around the 2012 Olympics in London.
Overcoming racism – She talks about being spat on and called golliwog and the n-word. And this quote comes from what she said directly after discussing her experiences. She kept her head held high and focused on who she knew she was. A lesson for us all!