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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 December, 2003, 00:27 GMT
Sanderson 'ecstatic' at honour
Date of birth: 14 March 1956
Place of birth: Jamaica
Titles: Olympic gold, 1984. European silver, 1978. Commonwealth gold, 1978, 1986 & 1990
Retired from sport: 1997
Current post: Vice-chairman Sport England

Former Olympic javelin champion Tessa Sanderson says she is "ecstatic" to have be appointed a CBE in the New Year Honours.

The first British black woman to win Olympic gold when she took the javelin title at the 1984 Games, Sanderson has been rewarded for services during a 30-year career as both an athlete and an administrator.

Sanderson, vice-chairman of Sport England since 1999, said: "I'm really thrilled, not just for myself but everyone I work with.

"It reflects upon everybody, especially the kids who we are are getting more involved in sport through their schools, the obesity campaign we will be running, the ethnic community and everyone at Sport England."

Having retired from competition in 1997, Sanderson opted to join the ranks of sports administrators and was soon being fast-tracked to the top.

As vice-chairman of the body which oversees lottery handouts to sport in England, she has campaigned for better grass roots funding and will play a role in the upcoming inquiry into the way athletics is run in the UK.

Tessa Sanderson fires her javelin to Olympic glory at Los Angeles in 1984
Tessa Sanderson fires her javelin to Olympic glory in LA in 1984

Fellow athlete David Moorcroft, now the chief executive of UK Athletics, said she thoroughly deserves the award.

"Tessa had a great career as an athlete and is now proving herself just as rock solid in sports administration," Moorcroft said.

"When you become an Olympic champion it would be easy to step aside and rest on your laurels.

"But Tessa is working even harder now and is this award reflects the respect she is held in by everyone."

Sanderson's place in sporting history is preserved as the first British athlete to win a throwing event gold, at the LA Olympics of 1984.

The sight of Sanderson crying tears of joy on the podium is an enduring image and was the crowning moment of a long career that would encompass six appearances in the Olympics.

Six of the best

It was also a triumph over her great British rival Fatima Whitbread, who was threatening to steal her crown as the dominant force in British javelin throwing. Whitbread had to settle for bronze.

Sanderson took over as number one again when her great rival retired in 1990.

She finished fourth at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, but then announced she was following Whitbread into retirement after 19 years at the sharp end of the sport to begin a new career in television.

But four years later she was back, establishing several world bests in the over-40 category and also claiming her 10th AAA title.

And in September 1996, she lined up on the Olympic runway in Atlanta, Georgia, for an incredible sixth time, equalling the record of Romanian discus thrower Lia Manoliu.

Sadly there was to be no fairytale ending - she failed to qualify for the final and she finally called it a day the following year.

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