Tessa Sanderson: I won gold - but having the Olympic Games in my home town is something else

 

Share
Related Topics

Finally, the Games are here – and I still have to pinch myself to believe they are happening. As an adopted Londoner – I live in east London and work in the Olympic heartland of Newham – my emotions today as the curtain goes up are a mixture of excitement, immense pride, and great anticipation. The goose bumps have already started.

I am so pleased that in my lifetime the Olympics have come here. It will be quite emotional for me because I’ve managed to get a ticket for my mum to watch the javelin, the event I won. She’s never been to an Olympics before, it will be fantastic for her.

I have that same tingly feeling that ran through my bones when I stepped off the team bus for my first Olympics in Montreal. Was that really 36 years ago?

I competed in those and the next five in succession, winning my gold medal in Los Angeles in 1984. But these Games in London bring a sense of fulfilment I never thought possible.

What the Games mean to an athlete really came home again to me this week when I visited the Olympic Village. This young foreign athlete came up to me and asked if I had a pin to exchange. She had that same sense of wonderment about being there as I had all those years ago.

Being an Olympian is something you never get blasé about, however many times you compete.

I have seen these Games grow from their inception as I was involved with the original bid. Now it is all for real and I can’t wait.

What delights me is that London 2012 is a watershed for equality.

Women now compete in every event. When I first started you could virtually count us on the fingers of two hands in international competition because promoters said we wouldn’t fill a phone booth. Look at us now.

More than half the British team are female and several like Jess Ennis, Rebecca Adlington and Victoria Pendleton are some of our biggest gold medal hopes. This has been one of the biggest changes in the last quarter of a century.

These Games have transformed Newham, it has given the place a new zest of life. It really does feel like the heartland of the Games. And Stratford has been turned into a little star city.

That twinge of nerves will start to set in once the athletes set foot in a Village that is the best I’ve seen. It is a home from home, unlike some I have been in. In Montreal there were six of us in one room.

There will be that same mixture of apprehension, excitement and anticipation as there was for me. What they must do is seek out a few serene moments they can have to themselves.

And because these Games are at home our athletes can be in touch with their friends and family – the British Olympic Association even has a room in Team GB House where they can meet up with their nearest and dearest afterwards, a super idea.

When I won my gold medal in Los Angeles I was desperate to speak to my mum and family back in Wolverhampton. But there were not mobile phones in those days, no texting or tweeting, nothing like Facebook, just a postcard home.

We were given a phone card, and there was one phone to a block and we all had to wait our turn in the queue to call home.

My only disappointment is a personal one. I have never been given an official role since we won the bid, apparently never considered for one. I don’t know why.

The fact is I’ve done six consecutive Olympics, I’m the only British athlete to have won a throwing gold medal, and the first black woman to win gold in any event.

What upsets me is that I feel I have much to offer and I have worked here in the heart of Stratford bringing so many young athletes through, yet the Organising Committee didn’t seem to want to know. But life moves on and this does certainly not detract from the great passion I have for these Games. I’ll be at the opening ceremony tonight, looking at things from the other side.

I think GB will win a lot of medals and do at least as well, if not better, as we did in Beijing. People will be surprised and delighted and in the end they will say that whatever the hassles, whatever the heartache, it has all been worth it.

My gold medal is my proudest possession. I have taken it out to show people so many times, especially when I visit schools, that the gold is wearing a bit thin. It has been dropped so many times it is a little dented. But who cares, it still inspires.

I’ll be cheering like mad for lots of British victories because I know how it feels when you can hold up that gold medal on the rostrum and say, “Hey Britain, this is for you”. It’s a wonderful feeling. There’s nothing else like it.

Tessa Sanderson, six times an Olympian, won javelin gold in 1984. She now runs the Tessa Sanderson Foundation in Newham.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

PHP Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: PHP Develope...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron (pictured) can't steal back my party's vote that easily, says Nigel Farage  

Cameron’s benefits pledge is designed to lure back Ukip voters. He’ll have to try harder

Nigel Farage
Turkish women have been posting defiant selfies of themselves laughing at their deputy PM's remarks.  

Women now have two more reasons to laugh in the face of sexism

Louise Scodie
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star