Creators of change and history
Creators of change and history
To mark Black History Month in the UK, we look at six Black British athletes and changemakers that you should know about.
1. Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton is the first Black Formula 1 driver and is among the best F1 race-car drivers in the world. He began his racing career at the age of eight with carting. His father was supportive of his passion and worked multiple jobs to fund it. He won the British Kart Championship when he was 10 and three years later, he was signed onto the McLaren and Mercedes-Benz Young Driver Support Programme. He won European and international karting titles from 1998 to 2000, and at the age of 15, he became the sport's youngest-ever number-one driver.
Hamilton moved on to car racing in 2003, winning 10 of the 15 races he competed in and winning the British Formula Renault race series championship. In 2006, he joined a team racing in GP2 (Grand Prix 2), a race series designed to help drivers prepare for Formula One, where he won the championship in his first season.
Upon winning his seventh Formula One title in 2020, Hamilton equalled Schumacher's record for winning the most championships in history, while also breaking Schumacher’s record for lifetime F1 race victories (91) in the process.
Aware of the lack of diversity in the motorsport industry and to bring about change in the industry, he set up the Hamilton Commission in 2019, aimed at researching and implementing ways to increase diversity in motorsports.
2. Nicola Adams
Nicola Adams is an inspiring boxing champion, whose story of breaking new ground in the boxing ring is an inspiration to all boxing enthusiasts. Nicola made history by becoming the first woman and the first openly LGBTQ+ person to win an Olympic boxing medal when she won gold in the flyweight category at the 2012 London Olympics. Nicola has a tremendous professional record of five wins, one draw and no defeats.
She is one of boxing's greatest success stories, and her tale and accomplishments have inspired many women to participate in the sport. Following her unprecedented achievements at the Olympics, she was nominated for the 2012 BBC Sports Personality of the Year. In 2013, she was awarded an MBE for her contributions to boxing, and in 2017 she was awarded an OBE.
Adams is openly gay and was named the top athlete of 2013 by Pink List. Adams is an active voice for LGBTQ+ rights and has spoken at many events on the issues of inclusion and diversity.
3. Tessa Sanderson
Theresa Ione "Tessa" Sanderson is a former British heptathlete and javelin thrower. A six-time Olympian in the javelin from 1976 to 1996, she won the gold medal for Great Britain in 1984, becoming the first Black woman from the UK to win Olympic gold and the second track and field athlete to compete in six Olympics, following discus thrower Lia Manoliu. Sanderson also competed in three Commonwealth Games and the 1992 IAAF World Cup, winning gold medals in the javelin throw. She won 11 AAA National Championships and three UK National Championships. In the javelin, she set 10 UK senior records and five Commonwealth records, as well as junior and master's records.
Tessa Sanderson has often spoken up about the racism she has faced as a Black athlete. Despite being the first Black British woman to ever win Olympic gold in a throwing event, she was unemployed for weeks and had no sponsorship. She has spoken about explaining the Black Lives Matter protests to her eight-year-old twins, understanding that they may be racially abused and discriminated against in the future.
4. Anne Wafula-Strike
Anne Wafula-Strike is a former wheelchair racer and a disability and social justice activist. She grew up in rural Kenya and became disabled due to polio. She moved to the UK in the early 2000s and soon rose to prominence in the world of athletics.
Wafula-Strike debuted on the international racing scene at the 2004 Athens Paralympics, and by 2008, she had won medals in 19 international and national competitions. In 2013, she became the first Paralympian in Europe to finish the 'Tough Mudder Challenge,' an endurance event series in which participants attempt a 16 to 19 km obstacle course.
She was named one of the top 12 influential women of colour in the UK and received a Black Entertainment, Film, and Fashion Award (BEFFTA) for being the most inspirational figure. She won the UK-Kenyan Sports Personality of the Year award in 2004 and she has also won the Women for Africa Recognition Award.
Since quitting full-time athletics, Wafula-Strike has devoted her time to advocating for disabled and socially disadvantaged people all across the world. She established the Olympic-Wafula Foundation to promote healthy-living solutions among disabled and disadvantaged individuals.
5. Joshua Buatsi
Joshua Buatsi is a Ghanian-born British professional boxer. As an amateur boxer, he won a bronze medal in the light-heavyweight division at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
For more than four years, he has competed in the professional ring. Since 2019, Buatsi has held the British light-heavyweight title.
Joshua began boxing training at a very young age and made his professional debut against Carlos Mena in July 2017 after finishing amateur tournaments. In the second round, he technically knocked out (TKO) his opponent.
In 2020, he defeated Marko Calic to maintain his WBA International light-heavyweight title. In his professional career, he has yet to lose a single match.
6. Clive Sullivan
Clive Sullivan was a Welsh rugby league player who played for Hull City and Hull Kingston Rovers, as well as Oldham Athletic and Doncaster Rovers. He became the first Black person to captain Great Britain in any sport, when he captained the team in 1972. Under his captaincy, Great Britain won the 1972 Rugby World Cup.
Sullivan began playing rugby in high school and was offered enlisted in the British army when he was 17 years old. Despite signing on to Hull FC, he was determined to serve in the army alongside playing professional rugby. The first three years of his career at Hull were disrupted by army commitments and injuries. Clive retired from the army in 1964 and went on to play 352 games for Hull City, scoring 250 tries in the process. Clive joined Hull FC's rival rugby team, Hull Kingston Rovers, in 1974 and played 213 games for them, scoring 118 tries.