Courtroom tears of ex-Olympic star Fatima

FORMER athletics idol Fatima Whitbread came close to tears as she told a Suffolk court about the difficulties she now faced in her personal life.

Colin Adwent

FORMER athletics idol Fatima Whitbread came close to tears as she told a Suffolk court about the difficulties she now faced in her personal life.

The 48-year-old former world champion javelin star, who also won an Olympic medal, told how two members of her close family had died, and how it was left to her to provide family support for her severely disabled mother-in-law.

Whitbread was given a two-week ban by Ipswich magistrates after she was caught driving at 116mph.


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Magistrates took pity on the former world champion javelin thrower, who won bronze at the 1984 Olympics and broke the world record in 1986, after she almost broke down in tears during an exceptional hardship plea.

Earlier prosecutor Shini Cooksley told the court Whitbread had her 11-year-old son in the car with her when she was seen speeding near East Bergholt.

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Using two reference points, police estimated her 07 VW Golf was travelling at 116mph before it was stopped at 2.55pm on May 24.

The court was told when the former BBC Sports Personality of the Year came to a halt she told an officer: “I'm under a lot of stress at the moment.”

Whitbread pleaded guilty to speeding, but made a tearful plea keep her licence. She already had six points on the licence after previous speeding offences on September 29, 2006, and November 11, 2006.

The triple Olympian told magistrates, her estranged husband Andy Norman, the Ipswich-born ex-promotions' director of the British Athletic Federation, had died in 2007.

Last year Whitbread's father-in-law also died and her severely disabled mother-in-law is being cared for in a Felixstowe nursing home.

Whitbread said: “It now rests on my shoulders to provide the necessary family care.”

She then paused, trying to stifle her tears. Magistrates offered to let their legal advisor read out the rest of her statement, but Whitbread replied: “I need to do this.”

She said her journeys to Ipswich and Felixstowe had increased from her home in Shenfield, near Brentwood, named Javel Inn, due to her mother-in-law's needs. Whitbread said she made the trip two to three times a week.

At the time she was caught speeding on the A12 she said she needed to get back home to attend to other pressing matters.

Whitbread told magistrates she was a widow and a single mother trying to work through her own traumatic worries.

She said: “With the passing of my husband, athletics doesn't provide me with any back-up support. I have to downsize my home as soon as possible.

“With the importance of helping my mother-in-law and keeping up with any opportunity that may arise to earn income I'm heavily reliant on my car.

“Expectations from my past successful athletics career are not so easy to fulfil and this hurts my pride.”

Whitbread added she also needed to support her son, Ryan, and help fulfil his own athletic potential, as well as take him to visit his grandmother.

Magistrates decided to put a further six points on her licence and disqualify Whitbread from driving for two weeks because of her hardship.

She was also fined �175 and ordered to pay a �15 victim surcharge, along with �30 prosecution costs.

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