Tessa Sanderson Biography

A famous sports personality, Tessa Sanderson, is the first black women to win an Olympic gold and has founded a charitable sports training center. To know more about her childhood, career, profile and timeline read on.

Quick Facts

Birthday: March 14, 1956

Nationality: American

Famous: Humanitarian American Women

Age: 64 Years, 64 Year Old Females

Sun Sign: Pisces

Also Known As: Theresa Ione Sanderson

Born in: Saint Elizabeth Parish

Famous as: Olympic athlete

Height: 5'6" (168 cm), 5'6" Females


Spouse/Ex-: Densign White

siblings: Eric Sanderson

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Tessa Sanderson is an Olympic gold-winning javelin thrower who also has the distinction of being the first British black woman to win Olympic gold and compete in six separate ‘Olympic Games’. She set several javelin records during her career, besting the UK record multiple times. She broke the 16-year losing streak for British women at the Commonwealth games and had two more winning appearances there throughout her athletic career. She attended six Olympics with varying success - the highlight of her Olympic career was her gold medal win in Los Angeles. She also won first place at the ‘Athletic World Cup’ during her time competing. Her life was not one without controversy; a rivalry with a fellow athlete spanned a decade. Upon retirement from the sport, she invested back into her community by opening a sports academy for youths and served on the Olympic legacy committee. She was a primary figure in developing the presence of the 2012 Olympic venue and preserving its legacy for England. Her work has been honored multiple times, including some of the highest honors from her country for her athletic and philanthropic achievements. She has firmly cemented her legacy as a trailblazer for both black women and British women athletes with her achievements.

Childhood & Early Life
  • Sanderson participated in her first ‘Olympic Games’ in Montreal in 1976 after besting the UK javelin a year prior. She was the youngest competitor at those Olympics finals and she came in tenth.
  • In 1978, she won her first Commonwealth games, leaving her competition behind by over 7 meters. She was the first British woman to win the games in 16 years. She went on to win the games two more times.
  • In 1984, she was the first British woman to win gold in the javelin event during her appearance at the ‘Olympic Games’ in Los Angeles. She participated in a total of six Olympic games and Los Angeles was her best showing.
  • During the late 1980s through 1990s, she made appearances on several TV networks, offering commentary and coverage of sports and Olympic news for a variety of outlets.
  • She retired from professional competition in 1996 and went on to pursue philanthropic endeavors. She created and sponsored a charitable educational program, ‘Tessa Sanderson Foundation and Academy’, that offers sports training for disabled and disadvantaged children
  • From 1999 to 2005, she served as vice chairman of Sport England.
  • She trained young athletes at ‘Newham Sports Academy’ for the ‘2012 Olympics’ and also trained kids at her charitable foundation for the event.
  • She was a part of the ‘Olympic Park Legacy Company’ which was commissioned with preserving the legacy of the ‘2012 British Olympic’ stadium. She pioneered the ‘Newham Classic 10K’ race, which toured the Olympic Park and continues today.
Awards & Achievements
  • Sanderson won the javelin event in three Commonwealth Games during the period 1978-1990. Her first victory ended a 16-year stretch where no British woman had won top honors in the competition.
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  • She won Olympic gold in the javelin in 1984 which made her the first British black woman to win gold at the Olympics. This led to her induction as a ‘Member of the Order’ of the British Empire later that year.
  • She captured first place in the javelin throw in the Athletics World Cup in Cuba in 1990.
  • She was advanced to ‘Officer of the Order of the British Empire’ in 1998 and then to Commander in 2004 for her charity work and contributions to the sport of javelin throwing.
  • The ‘Athletics Writers Association’ voted her ‘Sports Personality of the Year’ and ‘Athlete of the Year’ three times.
Personal Life & Legacy
  • Sanderson has been married to Densign White, a British Olympic judo competitor, since 2010. She had known White since her first appearance in the Olympics. She does not have any children but has expressed interest in adopting.
  • She had a bitter rivalry with fellow javelin thrower Fatima Whitbread in the 1980s. Sanderson defeated Whitbread in 1984 with her Olympic gold medal win but fell to Whitbread in several competitions. Sanderson does not like to talk about the rivalry.
  • She is an outspoken supporter of drug awareness and prevention in sports, citing personal experiences during her time competing.
  • She paved the way for women and black athletes everywhere by beating the odds with her groundbreaking achievements and awards.
  • She established the Tessa Sanderson Foundation and Academy, a charitable sports education organization for children in 2011.
  • This famous sports personality is the only British woman to have competed in six Olympic Games.
  • This famous personality’s English hometown named a neighborhood in her honor.
  • This famous personality was 40, when she competed in her last Olympic Games.

See the events in life of Tessa Sanderson in Chronological Order

How To Cite

Article Title
- Tessa Sanderson Biography
- Editors, TheFamousPeople.com
- TheFamousPeople.com
Last Updated
- November 03, 2017
Tessa Sanderson

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