By now the Commonwealth Games 2022 are well and truly underway, with today’s event, the Black Country Cycling Time Trials, starting in our very own West Park in Wolverhampton! (click here for a useful list of road closures).
It’s not an exaggeration when we say Wolverhampton is home to some of the greatest athletic talent the world has ever seen. In time with the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, we’re taking the opportunity to celebrate the achievements of our Wulfrunian athletes of past and present.
Celebrating Wolverhampton’s Greatest Athletes
Denise Lewis OBE
Born in West Bromwich and brought up in Pendeford, Wolverhampton, Denise Lewis’ humble beginnings at Regis School, Tettenhall would forge her into a multi- gold medal-winning athlete on the world stage.
Denise specialised in the heptathlon, an event combining seven events: 100 metres hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200 metres, long jump, javelin throw, and the 800 metres sprint! Competing in her first Commonwealth Games in Canada in 1994, Lewis won her first of many gold medals in the heptathlon and held her title in the 1998 games also.
She broke her own record, however with an astounding 6,584 points and her first gold medal at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. In 2001, Denise was awarded an OBE in the New Year Honours and to this day remains a national treasure and the pride of Wolverhampton.
Our next Wolverhampton-born athlete began their career in 2006 at Birchfield Harriers athletics club in 2006, where Matthew honed his talent as a track and field sprinter.
In 2014, he won his first gold medal at his very first Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and also at the European Athletics Championships in Switzerland for the 4 x 400m relay,
Since coming first place again at the European Championships 2018 in Berlin, Matthew Hudson-Smith most recently broke the British record running a personal best of 44.35 seconds in the 400-metre sprint.
Verona Marolin Elder (née Verona Bernard) MBE
Matthew Hudson-Smith isn’t the only medal-winning 400m runner of Wolverhampton heritage
Verona Marolin Elder (then known by her maiden name Verona Bernard) made her debut at the 1972 Munich Olympics competing in the 4 x 400m relay.
Throughout her career, Verona won multiple gold and silver medals in the Commonwealth Games and European Championships, not only in 400m running but also in 800m and hurdles competitions.
Not only is Verona a celebrated treasure of the West Midlands, she is also a Member of the British Empire and is the current manager of the British Athletics Team for people with learning disabilities.
Sometimes, slow and steady wins the race, especially when you’re running 10,000 metres!
Born in Wolverhampton, long-distance runner Karl Keska competed for the University of Oregon from 1992-1996 and competed in his first Commonwealth Games in 1998, Kuala Lumpur in the 5,000m running event.
Karl returned to the 10,000m competition as an Olympic finalist in 2000 at the Sydney Games.
Tessa Sanderson CBE
Closing our Wolverhampton hall of fame parade is the one, the only Theresa ‘Tessa’ Sanderson CBE! Having competed in not one, not two but SIX Summer Olympic games from 1976 to 1996, Tessa is the second athlete in history to achieve such an accolade.
Winning gold medals in the javelin at three Commonwealth Games, Tessa set ten British national records and five Commonwealth records, beating British rival Fatima Whitbread.
Tessa Sanderson went on to be awarded an MBE in 1985, became a sports reporter for Sky News in its early days and was awarded a CBE in 2004.
To this day, the Tessa Sanderson Foundation and Academy operates with the aim to encourage people with disabilities to play sport.
Beyond the Commonwealth Games
We hope learning about the astounding achievements of local athletes has inspired you to take up a bit of sport on your own. If you’re visiting the games, we wish you a fantastic time, and if you’re competing, bring home the gold!
Check out our blog: Reasons to stay in Wolverhampton for the Commonwealth Games.