Olympic Moments: No 4. Tessa Sanderson (Javelin 1984)

Tessa Sanderson: 'It was an anxious throw, I knew I'd given it everything'


I had struggled at the 1980 Olympics in Moscow. A year later I was hit with an injury and I was out for two years. By Los Angeles I was probably only 90 per cent fit.I needed to make my first throw big. I wanted to go for a killer one. First round, first throw. Over.

There were a lot of elements I had to get right. There was the issue of my planting foot. It was that leg I had injured. I had lost an inch and a half off my calf. Then I had to ensure the delivery of the point of the javelin was perfect. And I then had to gather up as much speed as possible – I had lost a bit because of the injury.

But most of all it was a mental thing: the fear factor... and Fatima Whitbread. Fatima was my fiercest rival. We had been battling against each other non-stop. But it wasn't just her. Also in the field was the world record holder, Finland's Tiina Lillak. I couldn't think about them. I needed to be locked into my own world.

And then it came to it. I remember the moment vividly. It was a nervous throw, an anxious throw. From the moment I held the javelin in the draw position and then with the speed of my arm, I knew it was big. I could feel it in my chest. I knew I had given it everything. I knew it was perfect. But I didn't know it was going to be an Olympic record.

If I hadn't have nailed that first throw, I would have had to fight to the bitter end. But it was still tough to watch the remaining five rounds. I remember Tiina's last throw. I remember thinking: "Damn, that's good." And then it came down 56 centimetres short. I just couldn't believe it.

I debated for a long time whether to take my last throw or not. I knew I had won. It was basically a glory throw and I took it. It came up short, but it didn't matter. I was the Olympic champion. Fatima gave me a big hug after that. She knew I'd won. And she was professional enough about it.

Here it was, the biggest stage, the greatest show on Earth and I had won, and not Fatima, and not Tiina. I felt great, I felt fantastic. I remember there were loads of British fans behind the barrier. They were shouting my name. The feeling then was indescribable. And I sunk to my knees.

Once you walk up to the podium everything comes to you. The emotion, the fear. It's a feeling of marvel – and all of this is for you and you alone. It doesn't matter what happens to you in your life after that.

This series is being run in conjunction with Richard House Children's Hospice, which is based in the Olympic borough of Newham. It caters for children with life-limiting, life-threatening and complex health-care conditions. To find out more and to vote for your favourite British Olympic moment, visit www.facebook.com/richardhousech

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been the teaching profession's favourite teacher
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform