Tessa Sanderson CBE

Athlete, Olympian, Administrator, Presenter, Ambassador

History was made in Los Angeles in 1984 when Tessa Sanderson’s opening javelin throw of 69.56m remained unsurpassed throughout the rest of the competition, making her the first British athlete to win an Olympic throwing title.

As a member of the Wolverhampton and Bilston Athletics Club Tessa won her first national javelin title at the age of 15 at the WAAA Intermediate Championships, before setting a UK age-17 best of 51.34m two years later.

Sanderson was the first British athlete, male or female, to win a throwing title with her 1984 Olympic gold.
Photograph courtesy of Mark Shearman

She became UK Junior record holder with 55.04m in 1974 and two years later qualified for the Olympic final in Montreal with a UK record of 57.18m. She broke through the 60m barrier in June 1977 with 60.24m but at a European Cup Semi-Final in Dublin the following month she shook the world of athletics. Not only did she defeat the East German world record holder and Olympic champion Ruth Fuchs but in the process, she threw 67.20m to rank second on the world all-time list.

Sanderson as one of the village Mayors at the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games where she presented the Javelin medals.
Photograph courtesy of BlackonSilver

An athlete with impressive longevity, Tessa competed at 6 Olympic games between 1976 and 1996, winning gold in Los Angles 1984 and placing fourth at the 1992 Barcelona Games. She won Commonwealth gold in 1978. 1986 and 1990 and the World Cup Gold Medal in 1990.

Sanderson’s involvement with athletics continued after her retirement from competing. She was the first female athlete to be appointed Vice Chair for Sport England, was a Board member of the Olympic Park Legacy Company and a patron for the Birmingham Commonwealth Association as well as lots of other charity work within and outside the sport.  

Sanderson was awarded an MBE in 1985 in recognition of her 1984 Olympic victory, an OBE in 1998 for her charity work and a CBE in 2004 for services to sport as Vice-Chairman of Sport England.