Northampton black girl

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Three men found guilty of murdering Christopher Allbury-Burridge in Northampton, fourth man convicted of manslaughter. Anita Neil now 70, was barely 16 when she made her Great Britain debut competing in the long jump and she went on to be a medal-winning sprinter at the Commonwealth Games and European Championships and competed at two Olympic Games. An achievement made all the more incredible in that by day she worked as a machinist in a clothing factory, had no financial backing, trained in her spare time with no club and her family were cash-strapped - all factors that led to the premature end to her glittering career.

But the gran-of-three, who classes herself as 'brown British', helped by her sister Catherine Arrowsmith, is now on a quest for recognition of her achievement as a pioneer and acknowledgement that she was Britain's first black female Olympian. Anita said: "The journey I have had was quite different and difficult. Some people had it quite easy and were able to train or go to London for meets. Family life for the budding athlete was sometimes difficult. Wellingborough born and bred, Anita's mum Florence, now 92, had fallen in love with and married an African American GI stationed in the town but the relationship didn't last.

Being brought up by a single mum 'surrounded by love', with support from grandparents, in a yet-to-be multi-racial town, the children were sometimes picked on with racial slurs and made examples of, not by their school pals, but by teachers and adults. She said: "There were a lot of people who didn't like us being around but we had really good friends that we still know today. We got some name calling but it was by the adults.

Growing up the middle child in a loving home in Dale Street with two brothers and two sisters, Anita's talent for running was first spotted at a school sports day at Bassett's Park. She said: "The gun went off and I started running. Half way down the track I wondered where everyone else was. That was the last time I came second in any school race. I learnt a lesson from that and came first in all the others. At school sports day she excelled. Finishing in the top three meant qualification for the district event, from there to the Northamptonshire Schools County Sports at Duston.

Anita left her peers trailing in her wake and made it to the All England Schools' meet intaking part in the long jump. The teachers had a whip round and bought her a tracksuit. At the event she met Mary Rand, track and field superstar who had just won gold at the Tokyo Olympics and Anita was inspired to train harder.

She said: "Mary Rand was my inspiration, she'd just won gold, and Roger Beworth was absolutely fantastic. He took me and mum to meetings at his expense. He'd drive us all over the place. I was working 36 hours a week in the Ideal Clothes factory. Sometimes Mr Beworth would collect me straight from work and I'd train. He was dedicated. All the hard work paid off and at the age of 16, she was selected to compete for Great Britain in Lille, France as a replacement for her hero Mary Rand because she was injured.

I was the youngest on the team. I went on a plane for the first time and stayed in a hotel. None of the other girls were working in factories, they were all at university. A few weeks later eight of us went to Cuba. We stayed in the biggest, poshest hotel. It was such a contrast and really widened my horizons. Mr Beworth knew I had the talent and didn't want to see it wasted. InAnita was part of a world record winning 4x yards relay team and attended a reception at Buckingham Palace with her teammates. Her dream came true when she received a letter saying she had been selected for the Olympics in the m and the 4xm relay- she wasn't allowed to do the long jump in case she injured herself.

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Anita said: "The opening ceremony was awesome. I wore a blue dress with gold buttons deed by Hardy Amies. I took it up to make it into a mini-dress. Anita made it to the quarter finals in the m and her relay team came fifth in the final.

She witnessed one of the most notorious protests in Olympic history when John Carlos and Tommie Smith stood on the podium and gave the black power salute. She said: "It was about civil rights and identity. One thing that not many people know is that they wore socks to represent being poor. It was very brave of them. Civil rights were bad in the US. Init was Anita's turn to stand on the podium in the European Championships in Athens, not once but twice where she won a bronze in the 4xm relay and another bronze in the blue riband event - the m. The following year took her to Edinburgh and the Commonwealth Games, in the sprints for England.

Still working with her PE teacher coach, Anita was training on the school playing fields. Her contemporaries used bespoke indoor and outdoor training facilities and proper tracks. Her relay team made it to the final and the podium again but were pipped to the gold by Australia led by Aussie superstar Raelene Boyle. Selected once again to represent Great Britain at the Munich Olympics, she was witness to the attack in the Olympic village when eight members of the Palestinian terrorist group Black September, took nine members of the Israeli Olympic team hostage, killing two of them.

One of them Anita has been speaking to just the day before in the stadium. She said: "We were not sure if there were snipers. We were watching it on the telly in our rooms. Afterwards we didn't want them to think they had won so we wanted to carry on.

I was in a strong heat and got through to the quarter finals.

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In the relay we made the finals. When Anita returned to Wellingborough her coach Mr Beworth, who had supported her for so much of her track career, was no longer able to coach her. She said: "I was aiming for the Montreal Olympics.

At the age of 23 I couldn't go to any meetings and didn't have anywhere to train. I disappeared into oblivion. I struggled on the field on my own and on occasions I would stay with a couple in London who had put up Mary Rand, but they moved away. I did go to some of the meetings.

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Anita did get to Montreal but only as a spectator, paid for by a friendly black US official. She could see her friends from the crowd but could not speak to them. She said: "It was heartbreaking, I couldn't get them but I could see them from a distance. I was very disillusioned. When the Olympic torch relay came to her home town inshe was disappointed not to be invited to take part in the celebrations as a bearer and she was unable to afford tickets to the London games. She said: "The council could have put me forward.

I was invited to a reception at the end when the torch bearers came in. They have all passed away. After returning to university in her forties, Anita is now retired using her time for walking and charity work pre-pandemic. She spends time with her daughter Charlotte and grandchildren, Katelyn, 12, year-old Cara and baby Kye.

I had a ball and it was unbelievable but I would like some acknowledgement and we'd like to know for definite if I was the first black female Olympian. News you can trust since in Edit Out. Three men found guilty of murdering Christopher Allbury-Burridge in Northampton, fourth man convicted of manslaughter Corby man jailed for supplying illegal morphine to year-old boy who died of overdose. By Alison Bagley. up. Thanks for ing up! Sorry, there seem to be some issues. Please try again later. Anita Neil with some of her official GB and England running kits. Catherine said: "I think her story should be recognised.

She paved the way and was a pioneer. Anita with work colleagues at Ideal Clothes in Wellingborough. Anita in her opening ceremony dress with Lynn Davies gold-medal winning long jumper. Anita Neil with her bronze and silver medals. I was just a young girl. Anita with her official tracksuits for England and Great Britain.

Anita's sprint times meant she also qualified for the m relay. Watching at home was sister Catherine and the rest of the proud family. She said: "We could see her, she was the only brown one in the team. She said: "To see the Union Jack fluttering in the breeze for me was brilliant. Without any financial help, the two-time Olympian was left to train on her own. Sister Catherine said: "She turned into a hermit for about seven years.

Although people in the town came out to welcome her after her successes. Looking back on her foiled athletics career she added: "For poor kids we did well. Anita as a schoolgirl with her formidable trophy collection. The buttons on Anita's Hardy Amies-deed Olympic outfit for the opening ceremony of the Mexico games.

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Anita at John Lea School all smiles after winning all her events.

Northampton black girl

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