Britain’s oldest living Olympian to jump for joy in Rio support

JPCT 150413 Bill Lucas, the oldest surviving British athlete of the 1948 London Olympic Games  Photo by Derek Martin ENGPPP00320130415155309
JPCT 150413 Bill Lucas, the oldest surviving British athlete of the 1948 London Olympic Games Photo by Derek Martin ENGPPP00320130415155309

Britain’s oldest living Olympian says he will still be jumping up and down in his chair supporting Rio 2016 hopefuls at the grand age of 99.

Bill Lucas, from Cowfold, ran the 5,000m at the 1948 Olympic in London after the war ruined his chances in 1940 and subsequently the lost 1944 Games.

98 year old Olympian Bill Lucas who competed in the 1948 Games at a gathering in Henry's Bar ahead of starting The Olympians wave at the Bupa Westminster Mile 2015.

Photo: Neil Turner/Bupa SUS-150529-103109001

98 year old Olympian Bill Lucas who competed in the 1948 Games at a gathering in Henry's Bar ahead of starting The Olympians wave at the Bupa Westminster Mile 2015. Photo: Neil Turner/Bupa SUS-150529-103109001

The former Belgrave Harrier was a hot prospect for a gold medal and a world record in the 1940 Olympics but World War II ruined his chances in Helsinki.

He went on to fly 81 missions as a bomber pilot to be awarded a distinguished flying cross, before competing at the 1948 London Olympics at the age of 32.

Now Lucas is looking forward to watching the current crop of the world’s best athletes take to the stage in August in Brazil.

He will, as always, be supporting Team GB and suspects they will be bringing home a few medals.

He said: “I shall relish watching without doubt. I shall watch to the nth degree. I watched the last ones like that and had a ticket for the final day, which was the final of the 5,000m, which was my event.

“It was a long way back, but it did bring back memories watching Mo Farrah with the 5,000. I hope he manages to do the double.

“I watch all of the events, I do not just follow the 5,000m only. I shall watch them all and follow our team avidly. I will be jumping up and down in my chair if possible.

“I think we are going to have a very good team, but we are up against the best in the world so can we hope for lots of medals? I do not know.

“I think we will get one or two, I can only wish them the best from one Olympian to another Olympian.”

Despite being held at Wembley, the 1984 Olympics were unlike any modern sporting event with Lucas having to get a bus, train and then the tube before entering with the spectators on the day of his race.

He was hopeful of a medal but he was past his prime and was beaten into eighth in the heats by one of the greats, Czechoslovakia’s Emil Zátopek.

On the modern Oympics, Lucas said: “They are a lot better looked after than in my day. Mine was in 1948 and I had just come out of a war. I had not had much training or money and I lived at home.

“I had to travel on the day of the opening ceremony, go home, come in the following day for my event and then come in again for the closing ceremony. These days all the accommodation is provided.

“It was hard. I did not have much medical attention and no-one had anything really, there was no help for anybody.”

On whether athletics and the change in sport since 1948, has been a good thing, Lucas said: “In many ways as far as the athletes are concerned, yes. As far as the governing body side goes, no.

“Athletics is made up of many clubs up and down the country and generally speaking I can’t say the governing body supports the clubs. They seem to pick and chose the up-and-coming athletes out of a hat.

“They probably don’t deserve criticism, but that’s an old man talking.”

As for a message to the Great Britain team, the veteran added: “Relish the time. Stick around for a number of years and take care of themselves. No-one made a fuss of us back then.”

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