You’ve seen them in the Olympics and various championship competitions around the world, and this list will highlight the accomplishments of the best black British female athletes from past to present.
Whether highly decorated or young upstarts making headway in their respective sports, these phenomenal women have made and continue to make their marks in Britain’s history books.
1. Dina Asher-Smith
Dina Asher-Smith is the fastest British woman in recorded history. She has always demonstrated an elite-level talent as a sprinter. She has been listed as one of the United Kingdom’s most influential people of African or African Caribbean descent.
At 24, Asher-Smith was the first Briton to win three medals at a World Championships.
Furthermore, she earned a medal in the 2016 Rio Olympics and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. In between that time, Asher-Smith has won a silver medal in the 100m, a gold medal in the 200m, and a silver medal for the 4 x 100m relay at the 2019 World Championships. She is one of the most decorated runners in the UK.
2. Christine Ohuruogu
Christine Ohuruogu is a former track and field athlete that excels in the 400m event. Ohuruogu is a World, Commonwealth, and Olympic champion in this event. Specifically, she was the Olympic champion in 2008, and she won the silver medal in the 2012 Olympics.
Ohuruogu has also had tremendous success in the women’s 4 x 400m relay as part of the Great Britain and Northern Ireland teams. She has won 6 World Championship medals while being a part of these respective teams in the 4 x 400m relay. Within her illustrious career, Ohuruogu shares the record with Usain Bolt and Merlene Ottey for the most consecutive global championships at nine between 2005 and 2016. She retired in 2018.
3. Katarina Johnson-Thompson
Katrina Johnson-Thompson is a renowned heptathlete. In 2019, she received the gold medal at the World Championships. In that same competition, Johnson-Thompson broke the British record with a score of 6,981 points. On the all-time heptathlon list, she ranks 6th.
Moreover, she even holds a record in the women’s pentathlon event with 5,000 points. She also won a gold medal in this event at the 2015 and 2019 European Indoor Championships. Additionally, Johnson-Thompson was the champion and the silver medalist for the 2014 World Indoor Championships. She also holds the British record for the high jump, with 1.97m indoors in 2015 and 1.98m outdoors in 2016.
4. Nicola Adams
Nicola Adams is a decorated boxer that won her first boxing match at 13 years old. It was 2001 when Adams became the first female boxer in history to represent England, and then the English Amateur Champion two years later. Adams maintained that title for three consecutive championships afterward.
As a boxing amateur, she became the first female champion to win the Olympic gold in London in 2012, followed by a second gold medal at the 2016 Olympic games in Rio. By 2016, Adams was the reigning European, World, and Olympic Games champion in the flyweight division.
She began her professional career in 2017 and fought for two years. In 2019, Adams held the WBO female flyweight title and retired with an undefeated record. She is one of the most successful female boxers in British history.
5. Asha Philip
Asha Philip is a track star that specializes in the 100m sprint. She has been competing in athletics since she was 4. In 2014, she and her teammates won a silver medal for the 200m relay at the IAAF World Relays. They obtained the gold medal during the 2014 European Championships for the 4 x 100m relay.
Along with other notable British female athletes, Philip was able to win a bronze medal in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in the 4 x 100m relay. Philip has also received a bronze medal for the 4 x 100m relay in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Between these years of training for the Olympics, she received two gold medals for the 60m sprint in European Indoor competitions.
6. Daryll Neita
Daryll Neita is a sprinter who has competed worldwide in notable tournaments and races. During the British Championships in 2016, she finished second, running 100m in 11.24 seconds, qualifying for the 100m sprint at the Olympics. Neita received a silver medal at the 2016 European Championships as a 4 x 100m relay participant.
She and her teammates broke the British record for this relay, running 41.81 seconds to get the bronze. The British team won two silver medals in 2017 and 2019 for this event at the World Championships. They won bronze again at the Olympics in 2021. Neita has run the 100m sprint in 10.93 seconds, her personal best, placing her as the second-fastest British female sprinter in history.
7. Tessa Sanderson
Theresa “Tessa” Sanderson was born in Jamaica and joined her parents in England when she was six. She is a famous former javelin thrower with multiple gold medals. Sanderson first threw a javelin when she was just 14 years old as a bet with a friend. After a push from her teacher, she soon became interested and started to train exclusively for this event.
Sanderson won a silver medal at the European Championships in 1978 and has appeared in the Olympics six times from 1976 to 1996. She was the first black British female to win a gold medal for Great Britain in 1984 during the Olympics. Her personal best is 73.58 m (241 feet, 4 ¾ in). Sanderson got a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in 1978, 1986, and 1990; she retired in 1997.
8. Tiffany Porter
Tiffany Porter is an American-born athlete that has citizenship in both countries. Porter decided to represent the United States as a junior competitor, but she eventually moved to England and represented Great Britain as an adult. She specializes in the 60m and 100m hurdles, the long jump, and the 200m sprint.
Porter has won 12 medals to date, with her first being a bronze medal in the 2013 World Championships for the 100m hurdles. She also won two bronze medals and a silver medal from 2012-2016 at the World Indoor Championships for the 60m hurdles event.
Porter earned a gold medal for the 100m hurdles in 2014 at the European Championships. She has a younger sister, Cindy Sember, who is also an elite British athlete.
9. Jessica Ennis-Hill
Jessica Ennis-Hill is one of few black female athletes from England to win more than a dozen medals during her competitive career. Her specialty was the heptathlon. When she was around 11 years old, she joined an athletic club and began competing immediately. Growing up, Ennis-Hill participated in numerous Junior Championships competitions and events, quickly establishing herself as a top athlete in Great Britain.
She would win two medals in the Olympics, a gold medal in 2012 and a silver medal in 2016. Ennis-Hill won three gold medals in the World Championships in 2009, 2011, and 2015. In 2009, 2010, and 2012 she had the highest-ranking heptathlon globally. Her personal best is 6,955 points. She retired in 2016.
10. Jazmin Sawyers
Jazmin Sawyers is a track and field athlete specializing in the long jump but has also competed in bobsledding competitions and the heptathlon. She was a child gymnast from when she was four years old, and she started doing athletic events for her school at eleven.
During the Commonwealth Youth Games in 2011, she won two gold medals for the long jump and the 4 x 100m relay. Sawyers also won a silver medal for the bobsleigh in 2014. She has two more bronze medals and a silver medal for the long jump in the European Championships and the Commonwealth Games.
11. Ashleigh Nelson
Ashleigh Nelson is a sprinter whose specialty is the 100m sprint. Interestingly, she has a brother who’s also a sprinter, and both of them were chosen to represent Great Britain at the Beijing Olympic Games, which took place in 2008.
In the 2014 European Championships, Nelson won a bronze medal in the 100m sprint and a gold medal in the 4 × 100m relay. In 2019, she’d go on to win silver for the same event. Nelson’s personal best in the 100m is 11.19 secs, which she set in 2014, and 22.85 secs in the 200m, set in 2019.
12. Kelly Holmes
Kelly Holmes was a middle-distance runner specializing in the 800m and 1500m events. She started running in middle distance competitions in her youth, but she stopped when she joined the British army and served her country for ten years. During that time, Holmes participated in athletic events held by that organization before beginning her career as an Olympian.
Once she finished her stint in the army, she went on to win three Olympic medals. She won a silver medal in the 2000 Olympics for the 800m race and two gold medals in the 2004 Olympics for the 800m and 1500m events. Holmes also has two gold medals from the Commonwealth Games and multiple silver and bronze medals from the World and European Championships. She retired in 2005.
13. Denise Lewis
Denise Lewis is a former track and field athlete who specialized in the heptathlon. Lewis was the champion of the 1998 European Championship, and she was also a two-time silver medalist in the World Championships in 1997 and 1999, respectively.
In the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, she won the gold medal for this event. Lewis was officially the first European to win the Olympic heptathlon. After retiring from the world of Athletics in 2005 and leaving it to other international black female athletes, she has ventured into television, becoming a regular pundit for athletics for BBC Television.
14. Maggie Alphonsi
Margaret “Maggie” Alphonsi is an accomplished former rugby union player (flanker). In 2010, she was “Sportswoman of the Year” according to the Sunday Times. In 2012 she was part of a record when she and her team competed in her sixth Grand Slam over a seven-year period and her seventh consecutive Sixth Nations championship.
Alphonsi participated in two Rugby World Cups before retiring in 2014. In 2015 she was the Rugby World Cup Ambassador and is currently the liaison for multiple charities and non-profit organizations. Shortly after retiring from rugby, Alphonsi would be inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame in November 2016.
15. Khadijah Mellah
Khadijah Mellah is renowned for being the first hijab-wearing jockey in competitive British horse racing. She has always been fond of horseback riding, and her mom signed her up for classes at the local mosque, and she started riding in 2012.
In 2019, Mellah won the Magnolia Cup, which is a five-and-a-half furlong sprint for amateur female jockeys. It took place at the famous Goodwood Festival. Mellah’s story was so enthralling that it became the subject of the TV documentary Riding the Dream, which made its debut in 2019.
16. Kare Adenegan
Place of Birth: Coventry, United Kingdom
Kare Adenegan is a British wheelchair athlete that specializes in sprint distances in the T34 classification. In 2013, she was officially classified as a disability athlete.
Adenegan, while representing Great Britain in the 2016 Summer Paralympics, won two bronze medals and a silver medal at the age of 15. By 2018 she’d set a New Works record at the time in the T34 100m with a time of 16.80 seconds at the Müller Anniversary Games in London. Interestingly, Adenegan is one of the only T34 athletes to complete a 100m course in under 17 seconds.
17. Alice Dearing
Alice Dearing is the first black female swimmer to represent Great Britain at an Olympic event. She began swimming around eight years old, and she specializes in open water events. Dearing is a bronze medal winner, dominating the World Junior Open Waters Championship in 2015. She followed that up by being the first gold medal winner for the 10km marathon (2:04:24.1) at the World Junior Open Waters Championship in 2016.
After a stunning performance in a qualifying race in Portugal to qualify for the 2020 Olympics, this was a historic feat that Dearing hopes to build upon as she leaves her legacy as one of Britain’s greatest swimmers. She also promotes diversity and inclusion amongst elite black swimmers in Great Britain.
Best Black Female British Athletes, Final Thoughts
From the British Championships to the European Championships, World Championships, all the way to the Olympics, these black female athletes from Britain, among many others, are doing it all. They’ve broken barriers and raised the standards of excellence in their craft as they set the stage for other young black girls and continue trailblazing.
These phenomenal women are setting records and making their home country proud. Their talent is undeniable, and there’s no doubt regarding their contributions to the world of athletics.
Hopefully, you enjoyed our list!