Sunday, 26 September 2021

Retired athletes reunited

RETIRED athletes who competed at the Olympics more than 50 years ago were reunited on the River Thames in Henley.

RETIRED athletes who competed at the Olympics more than 50 years ago were reunited on the River Thames in Henley.

The five athletes, who all took part in the Rome Games in 1960, enjoyed a boat trip aboard Hobbs of Henley?s hire boat Consuta II.

Among them were high jumper Dorothy Emerson, a former teacher at Gillotts School in Henley, and Ken Lester, who still holds the title of Britain?s youngest male Olympian.

Mrs Emerson, 74, who competed as Dorothy Shirley, won a silver medal in Rome and also competed at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico.

Mr Lester, from Wallingford, was just 13 when he coxed the coxed pair in Rome but the crew failed to reach the final. He had joined the British Olympic squad after being invited to take part in the trials at Henley. Mr Lester, now 66, said: ?I coxed someone at a skiff regatta in Wallingford in 1959. He decided to enter the trials and remembered me from there so invited me to cox them.

?We were knocked out in the repechage, coming second or third, but it was quite an experience.

?I don?t think there will be many 13-year-olds going to the Olympics now because a lot of clubs and sports organisations now stipulate 14.

?Obviously I was quite lucky. I was about 5ft 5in and only weighed 6st 12lb but the minimum weight for coxes was 7st 7lb so I had to carry a sandbag.?

Mr Lester?s younger brother Richard stroked the GB men?s eight to silver at the Olympics in Montreal 1976. ?Richard was two years younger than me,? said Mr Lester. ?My parents and older sister flew out to Rome for the Games but he had to stay at home with my aunt.

?He was very annoyed that he couldn?t go and vowed to one day go to the Olympics, which he did 16 years later.? The group of athletes, which also included 50km walker Eric Hall, had never met officially until a 50th anniversary reunion party held in Rome three years ago.

Mr Lester remembers asking for the autographs of the two swimmers in the party, Beryl Coshall (née Oakes) and Christine Parfect (née Gosden) on the plane home from the Games.

They have stayed in touched since the reunion and decided to meet in Henley, where Mr Lester is a member of Leander Club.

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