Thursday, July 25, 2024

Olympian Fatima delivers emotional testimony to U3A

On Wednesday 25 July Thurrock branch of U3A held its monthly meeting at the Civic Hall, Grays.

Chairperson, Maggie Whitbread, appealed for contributions of jigsaw puzzles for th e book stall. She reminded members that the August meeting would be an opportunity for groups to display examples of their work and that it would be in the form of the annual party, members were invited to contribute savouries and cakes for the buffet. She reminded members that the meeting would start at 1.00 instead of the usual time of 10.00 a.m.

She introduced the speaker, who happened to be her adoptive daughter, Fatima Whitbread C.B.E. who gave a fascinating and moving account of her unhappy relationship with her birth parents in Stoke Newington, North London and her tug of war between her abusive mother and the Social Services. After being moved from one care home to another she eventually came under the care of a Mr. and Mrs. Smith who were in charge of a social care home unit in Belhus Park.

Her one salvation was an intense interest if sports. She and a companion sought out the Thurrock Harriers, where she cane into contact with Maggie Whitbread, a teacher at a senior school, Palmer’s College and an enthusiastic sports coach, with a special interest in the javelin.

Fatima became fascinated with the prospect of throwing the javelin and, under Magpie’s expert tuition of was a quick learner. After a while Maggie offered to take Fatima to her home for a Sunday tea and, later for week-end breaks. Fatima, with a natural love of children, soon became a favourite with the Whitbread’s two young sons.

Eventually the Whitbreads applied for formal adoption.

Fatima went onto gain fame as an athlete, winning an Olympic silver medal. Further honours followed, including ‘Sports Personality of the Year’ and the C.B.E.

Marriage and the birth of her son took over much of interested in sports.

After the death of her husband, Fatima had to find a way of producing an income to support herself and her son. She cashed in on her celebrity status and took part n a series of ‘reality’ programs, including: ‘I’m a Celebrity,’ ‘Come Dine With Me’ and other programmes, in spite of which she continues to work for the promotion of sports for the young people of the country.

Fatima has had a new, autobiographic, book ‘Survivor’ released in July.

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