Sports star Fatima Whitbread has got “some closure” on her traumatic upbringing by experiencing the childhood she should have had.
The former javelin thrower, who had an abusive biological mum and was in children’s homes for 14 years, travelled to Turkey and spent time with a family in Istanbul during the filming of BBC series Pilgrimage.
Her birth mother was Turkish Cypriot. Until nowvFatima, 59, had deliberately never visited Turkey because the country symbolises her heritage.
She said: “This was my most amazing experience since the Olympics.
“I feel as a person I’ve grown and had some closure. It brought a lot of things to the surface which I’d never really addressed properly.
“Firstly, what it would have been like to be in a loving family. Everyone wants to be in a secure, loving environment, which I never had. And what it would have been like to have been brought up as a little Turkish girl.
“Seeing how the parents were and how they interacted with their family, it was emotional, it was cathartic.”
She was abandoned in a flat as a baby. Days later, neighbours who heard her cry rang police. Her birth mother, who has since died, occasionally came back into her life during the years in care.
When Fatima was 12, she was raped by a man while her biological mum held a knife to her throat. Fatima was adopted at 14 by her javelin coach Margaret Whitbread, who is now 80, and was on the phone to give advice to her daughter during filming of the show.
Fatima won gold at the World Athletics Championships in 1987 and silver at the Olympics in 1988.
*The last episode of Pilgrimage: The Road to Istanbul, BBC2 today at 9pm.
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