Anyika Onuora: I had nobody to talk to in UKA who understood what I’d experienced

As a child our family car was firebombed, completely burnt out in a racist arson attack.

In the years that follow I experience numerous incidents of racism while representing my country.

In 2007, travelling to Norway, dozing in the plane, I feel something strange on my arm.

I open my eyes and see the man beside me is licking my arm.

“I want to know what a black girl tastes like,” he says calmly. I don’t have the words to reply. I am young and scared.

A year later, I am in Sardinia, warming up for a competition on the grass outside my hotel when I see flashing blue lights.

Two police officers get out of the car and tell me a neighbour called to say there was a black girl trespassing on their property.

I explain I am competing in the stadium around the corner and show them my accreditation. The officers apologise, but I am left scared and humiliated.

Happier Times: Onuora (right) and GB team mates Christine Ohuruogu, Emily Diamond and Eilidh Doyle receive their bronze medals for the 2016 Olympic Women’s 4 x 400m relay

In Beijing I stand for an hour ignored by every single taxi that goes by. Finally, a kind white British man notices what is happening and explains that nobody will stop for me because of my skin colour.

He hails a taxi and one immediately stops. He explains to the driver where I need to go and gets out of the car in one swift motion.

I got used to being followed in supermarkets across the world by staff, immediately judged as a potential shoplifter due to my skin colour. I would ask white team mates to accompany me.

I had nobody to talk to at a leadership level in UK Athletics, no one who understood what I had experienced.

There was no black representative at the executive level who we could talk to about racism. The track was dominated by black British athletes, but the boardroom was filled with white men in well-tailored suits. We couldn’t see it, so we couldn’t be it.

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Adapted by ALEX SPINK

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