Unwanted Fatima Whitbread went on to become a world champion javelin thrower

In 1961, a communal flat in north London was the scene of an infant’s scream.

Crying nonstop, they eventually faded.

When no one departed or tried to soothe the infant, a concerned neighbor called the police. There was a three-month-old baby inside who was sick, hungry, and completely alone.

If you ask Fatima Whitbread, “I was abandoned, some would say left to die,” she adds.

A javelin thrower and Olympic champion, Whitbread held the world record.

She may be the ‘SAS Who Dares Wins’ recruit with broken ribs or the ‘I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here’ campmate with a bug in her nose.

During Tuesday’s Sports Personality of the Year 2023 ceremony, she was presented with the Helen Rollason Award for overcoming obstacles.

You are familiar with Whitbread, but her story goes beyond that.

On August 28, 1986, organizers were concerned by the short gray presentation line.

Half of the stands were vacant when javelin qualifying for the European Championships took place at the Neckarstadion in Stuttgart in unusually dismal and rainy weather.

There was a 62-meter final the day after. Whitbread aimed to save energy by landing on her first throw.

In the grainy footage, she uses her right hand to grip the javelin. Running left-footed down the runway, she is wearing bib 310, a white GB vest and shorts.

After eleven steps, her legs start to blur, and she lets go. The javelin “exploding like a missile” when it slipped from her fingers, according to her memoirs.

It was healthy for Whitbread to let go. Floating was helpful. She pounded the air upon touching down.

“I think that championship record has gone,” said. Also broke the world record.

The record was broken by 2.04 meters by Whitbread, who threw 77.44 meters.

She became the first British woman to hold a world record, despite nobody believing she could throw more than 250 feet.

Despite suffering a shoulder injury, Whitbread went on to win her first major title the following day with the second-longest throw in history.

To her delight, her hips swung. Now was her moment.

“It was a sea of emotion and constant abandonment, attachment issues, and emotional trauma,” Whitbread, 62, told BBC Sport.

I had no idea whether it was my parents’ birthday or Christmas party. missing letters and cards.

The kids’ front room was my playground.Could that be my mother coming to get me? In front of the parking lot, I greeted cars who were unable to make it to the hospital.

Whitbread reached 5. With Whitbread’s half-brother and sister, her mother, who is of Turkish and Cypriot descent, relocated the family to a different children’s home. It was at that point that Whitbread learned the truth about her family.

“When she arrived she never once made eye contact with me,” according to her. “I remember crying all the way down, because it was a very frightening thing to do to leave a home which had been there, which was your family.”

Children at the new Essex facility are going hungry and without proper clothing. While being punished for bedwetting and sent to the porch step for disobedience, children played on a cold and dirty garage floor.

While she took Whitbread’s half-siblings out or to her place, Whitbread’s mother abandoned him. Her mother sent Whitbread to the house of the children by herself after her incarceration.

Eventually, she tracked out her Greek-Cypriot father. While Whitbread enjoyed his visit, he never laid eyes on her.

“In order to protect myself, I put up walls of security around me,” says the author. “I would always protect myself from from being allowed to be loved or liked in any way, shape, or form.”

A single “bright shining star” throughout her whole existence. Whitbread was well-liked by “Auntie Rae” Peat, who worked in children’s homes.

When Auntie Rae’s mother and three boys visited London for a weekend, she intervened and stopped Whitbread. Guys could be interested in prostitution, she thought.

Whitbread was compelled by a social worker to spend the summer with her mother when she was eleven years old. Whitbread was raped and beaten one night at her mother’s apartment.

After Whitbread made his getaway to the children’s house, Auntie Rae informed the owners about the cruelty. According to Whitbread, they did not find any case notes or official investigations.

A thin gray line presenting information

“Sporting events saved me from drowning in despair,” Whitbread said of sports. Despite having trouble in school, she managed to get a spot on every sports team.

In the sport of netball, she was unrivaled. While “motivating” her teammates and criticizing the umpire, she “made a lot of noise” in one match. A “pain in the backside” was how she described herself.

“[The umpire] blew a whistle and said ‘any of that young lady and you’ll be off’,” according to Whitbread.

At Blackshots Athletics Stadium, Whitbread and a friend from another children’s home watched a javelin.

She was told to give the javelin instructor a go. Whitbread “did a double take” when she did it.

“It’s that same woman on the netball court who threatened to throw me off,” informed me. Margaret Whitbread, a thrower who won gold at the Commonwealth Games in Britain, taught the 13-year-old the sport.

“I could see she was a very neglected young girl,” Margaret tells BBC Sport. Although… Upon returning home, Margaret passed her javelin and boots on to her.

Despite her month-long suspension, Fatima managed to write a letter to Margaret after her inadvertent javelin toss into the children’s window.

She expressed her inability to go to the track in her written message. Parisian panes shattered. I am seeking the most elite javelin thrower.

The Whitbread sisters, Margaret and Fatima 1978

Later on, Fatima met John, Margaret’s husband, and their children, Gregg and Kirk. As the boys’ innate older sister, she blended in seamlessly.

With her arrival, Margaret’s family was complete.

“Do we have to take Fatima back to the shop?” Gregg said that one night. She was entertained that evening by the Whitbreads. Because her biological mother wanted too much money, her adoption was out of the question.

Margaret and her family raised Fatima. To reflect her new life, her surname was changed from Vedad—her biological mother’s name—to Whitbread by a deed poll.

By the time she was fourteen years old, she already had a family and plans for the future.

“Mum and I, as mum and daughter, coach and athlete, ended up conquering the world.”


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