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Sanderson, Tessa (1956—)

British Olympic athlete. Name variations: Theresa Sanderson. Born on March 14, 1956, in St. Elizabeth, Jamaica.

Won the javelin throw at the Commonwealth Games (1978 and 1986); took second place, European championships (1978); set a Commonwealth record of 6,114 points in the heptathlon (1981); came in fourth, World championships, Helsinki, Finland (1983); won gold medal for javelin throw, Los Angeles (1984), setting an Olympic record: 228 feet and 2 inches (69.56 meters).

Tessa Sanderson was born in 1956 in St. Elizabeth, on the island of Jamaica, where she first learned to throw the javelin at age 14. She improved rapidly and gained 30 feet in her throwing distance between 1976 and 1977. By 1980, her distance was within one foot of the world record. Although a clear favorite to medal, Sanderson apparently had an attack of nerves during the Olympic trials and failed to qualify for the Moscow Games that year. It was one of few setbacks in an otherwise stellar career which included first-place wins in the 1978 and 1986 Commonwealth Games, a second-place finish in the European championships in 1978, and a fourth-place position in the World championships in Helsinki in 1983. Although not as well known for her skills in the heptathlon, Sanderson had also set a Commonwealth record in that event with a score of 6,114 points in 1981.

In 1984, four years after failing to compete in Moscow, Sanderson made the most of her second chance at the Los Angeles Olympic Games. She not only qualified, but also set an Olympic record of 69.56 meters for the javelin throw, taking the gold medal. She then settled in Leeds, England, and began work as a sports promotion assistant.

Gloria Cooksey , freelance writer, Sacramento, California

Sanderson, Tessa (1956—)

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