Half a century after his retirement, pioneering sprinter Anita Neil is finally recognized

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The Mail has given me the recognition I’ve been missing for all these years! Half a century after his retirement, pioneering sprinter Anita Neil is finally recognized

  • Britain’s first black female Olympian has received the recognition she deserves
  • A custom illustration of the two-time Olympian has also been created as a tribute
  • Hundreds of Wellingborough residents have called for a street named after Neil

The British Olympic Association sent Britain’s first black female Olympian, Anita Neil, an official letter of recognition 49 years after her retirement, amid calls for a street to be named after her.

The 71-year-old – who witnessed the racist abuse directed against John Carlos and Tommie Smith for their black salute to power at the 1968 Mexico City Games and passed countless barriers – gave her first interview in more than 40 years in March, in which she revealed the pain of ‘being ignored all my life’.

The 100m sprinter, from Northamptonshire, last represented Great Britain in 1972, and the BOA has now recognized her breakthrough achievement thanks to Sportsmail’s report.

Britain’s first black female Olympiad, Anita Neil, has received the recognition she deserves

They also offered a personal apology for “any pain caused” by the delayed acclaim and promised to show the story of the “hero pioneer” prior to the Olympics.

A custom illustration of the two-time Olympian has also been created as a tribute.

It’s because hundreds of Wellingborough residents join forces to campaign for a street named after Neil. The idea was first considered by the municipality 20 years ago and has now resurfaced.

The 71-year-old had resigned himself as a footnote in the athletics history of this country

The 71-year-old had resigned himself as a footnote in the athletics history of this country

Obviously, the issue has yet to get on the council’s agenda – because of last week’s elections – but it has not been ruled out.

A delighted Neil said yesterday: “It’s been great, the Daily Mail certainly put it there and revealed that I was Britain’s forgotten first black female Olympian, and it’s nice that people are now recognizing it.”

When she was forgotten, she added, ‘You just live with it. I thought, “Ah, that’s life.”

The Northamptonshire 100m sprinter last represented Great Britain in 1972

The Northamptonshire 100m sprinter last represented Great Britain in 1972

The Mail has clearly got it out there and informed people about it.

‘The people of Wellingborough are trying to get a street named after me! It would mean a lot. I want to see it while I’m still there. This story has helped me gain the recognition I have been missing for all these years. ‘

A post-nominal certificate from the World Olympians Association is already underway, allowing Neil to use the initials ‘OLY’ after her name to indicate her career.

The 70-year-old was part of the world record 4x100 meter relay team in 1968 (above)

The 70-year-old was part of the world record 4×100 meter relay team in 1968 (above)

A custom illustration of the two-time Olympian has also been created as a tribute

A custom illustration of the two-time Olympian has also been created as a tribute

To formally acknowledge Neil’s accomplishments, a letter from the BOA that Sportsmail saw praised a “very special achievement and something you can be rightly proud of.” It added: ‘We will do our very best to preserve your story and connect it with today’s athletes.

“ I hope you can enjoy this year’s Olympics in Tokyo knowing your legacy will be passed on to the class of 2021. ”

A BOA spokesperson said: ‘We called Anita personally to make sure she knows we regret the pain caused by not recognizing her status earlier than the end of last year.

The BOA’s investigation allowed us to confirm Anita’s status as the first known black woman to represent GB at the Olympics.

“In the future, her story will play a prominent role in our work with athletes on their journey to future Games.”

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