A cup of tea with Olympic Gold medalist Tessa Sanderson CBE

As the 2022 Commonwealth Games begins later this month Manuka Doctor is proud to announce former Team GB Athlete Tessa Sanderson CBE as its new ambassador. 

With over 26 years on the international circuit, Tessa was the first black British woman to win an Olympic Gold medal. She appeared in every Summer Olympics from 1976 to 1996 and won three Commonwealth Gold Medals for Javelin. Here we delve into the incredible career of one of Britain’s greatest ever track and field athletes and find out how it all started.

“There have been some ups and downs but generally it feels absolutely marvellous to have competed in so many international events doing something that I love.”

Javelin wasn’t the only sport that Tessa was good at.

“I played a number of sports at school which I’m glad of as it makes you a lot more mobile and flexible and keeps the brain challenged. I played hockey for the county, I did cricket, I played netball, I loved tennis as well, but I think that was a little bit more hard work for me. And of course, there was track and field. My teacher discovered me and at 13, I threw a cricket ball 199 feet. Her face fell to the ground. She realised then that I had a talent!

As a child I didn’t really have any pressure to perform, they were always very positive. When I was younger, there were a lot of parents who saw a glimmer of talent and really pushed their children to perform, however it can have a negative effect on the child so I would never want to be like that. If you see a bit of talent, let them enjoy it and let them feel they want to do it.

Tessa Sanderson

During Black History Month I tend to do a lot of activity with the schools, taking my medals in and giving motivational talks to encourage the children. It is so important for young children to have sport and encouragement as there is so much to explore and a positive focus for children. There are far too many young kids that are obese. A healthy lifestyle is so important.”

Tessa’s eating habits have changed a lot since her competing days.

“My fitness regime has changed a lot since when I was competing and changed for the better. 

When I was competing, there was a lot more power work, a lot more strength required. I needed to throw my javelin, I was training 6 or 7 times a week. Nutritional habits changed because I was eating a lot more power food such as meat and carbohydrates. I needed that for my events. I was never a muscle thrower I was a speed thrower. 

But now it has changed a lot, I am a size 10/12 in clothing and I love it. For my training programme I still run and jog to keep healthy because I feel it’s important to do that. I’m also helping others in the community to do the same. 

My eating habits have changed greatly. I eat a lot more fish, chicken and a lot more home cooking which I never did when I was training! My mum and dad cooked my meals and we ate a lot more junk when travelling. Now I'm in my sixties I'm certainly more aware than ever of eating well, avoiding refined sugars and making sure I don't compromise and always buy the best quality I can.

When I was introduced to Manuka Doctor's honey I fell in love! It's truly amazing stuff! It's not as sweet as standard table honey. Manuka is thicker and creamier. I have it every morning with my breakfast and I love the squeezy honey for my children, it’s great to help build their immune systems. They love to squeeze the honey on to their breakfast cereal.”

Manuka honey isn’t the only bee-by-product that Tessa is a fan of…

“When I was competing, I took a lot of bee pollen. Little did I know that several years down the line I would be ambassador for Manuka Doctor whose Bee Flex supplement for muscle strength and bones contains bee pollen – something I’ve been taking for years!

I take Vitamin D and Vitamin C, especially during COVID times and in the Winter when there isn’t much sunlight. I also eat a lot of fruit. I love the Manuka Doctor Vitamin D as it has so many other important vitamins and minerals as well as the Manuka honey.”

Tessa’s love of New Zealand started back in 1974 with her first Commonwealth Games which took place in Christchurch New Zealand. 

“I was the third best thrower but then I was out of the competition. I did a throw and the red flag went up. My big toe was on the line! I think that was the first time I really cried! I swore I would go back and win it, so I went back in 1990 and I won! I love the country, I love Maoris and Maori music and now I’m in love with the Manuka honey!”

Tessa Sanderson

More recently Tessa’s work in motivational speaking and TV appearances has required a different need for Manuka honey – to keep her voice in tip top shape for her speaking engagements which she loves. 

“I am looking forward to fulfilling a lot more TV work, especially with the upcoming Commonwealth Games. Talking all day and after dinner speaking can be challenging on the voice, so I am so pleased to be an ambassador for Manuka Doctor as I now understand the benefits of Manuka honey on your voice.

Now I can take the honey and lozenges to soothe my voice after speaking for 45 minutes solid and my throat is fine. I was so amazed to discover that Manuka Doctor made sweets with actual Manuka in the middle to soothe your voice, incredible!

Manuka Honey is going to be my staple during the upcoming Commonwealth Games as the honey will help soothe my voice after talking all day. I love all of the Manuka Doctor products, they are super-duper!”

Tessa on receiving her CBE from the Queen…

“When I received my CBE from the Queen, it was just unbelievable! It felt so amazing. It was such a shock to find out I had been awarded. It was such an amazing experience to go to Buckingham Palace. I have been so lucky to meet all of the family except Harry who I would love to meet. The investiture they give to us is amazing. It’s a wonderful experience and a super feeling of gain and to be honoured. I run my foundation and have helped some of the people from there become international athletes including Asha Philips.  Six people went onto Uni. So it was a lovely honour to receive an MBE, OBE and CBE – I’m in heaven!”

Tessa’s final tip of day - “Sport has been a great pathway for me and I would more or less say to anyone that wanted to venture into sport to go for it. The camaraderie from people that you meet and the places that you get to travel – for free! So go for it!”

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