Britain’s oldest Olympian gets heroes underway in a magic mile in London

Bill Lucas started the eagerly-anticipated race featuring more than 80 Olympic heroes for the Olympians Mile.

Thursday, 28th May 2015, 3:30 pm
More than 90 Olympians from every Games since 1952 surround 98 year old Olympian Bill Lucas, who competed in the 1948 Games, at a gathering in Henry's Bar ahead of their wave at the Bupa Westminster Mile 2015. Photo: Neil Turner/Bupa

Bill Lucas started the eagerly-anticipated race featuring more than 80 Olympic heroes for the Olympians Mile.

The 98-year-old who ran in the 5,000m at the 1948 Olympic Games in London got proceedings underway in a field of famous faces from former Olympic Games.

They included champions Robin Cousins, Denise Lewis, three members of the 1988 hockey gold medal winning team: Stephen Batchelor, Robert Clift and Richard Leman, and former world mile record-holder Steve Cram.

Steve Cram, 98 year old Bill Lucas and fellow Olympians celebrate after completing the Olympian Wave at the Bupa Westminster Mile 2015. Picture by Bob Martin

It was one of the 33 races to make up the third annual world’s greatest festival of mile racing - set up by the organisers of the London Marathon.

Lucas, who was a Belgrave Harriers member, looked a hot prospect of taking gold and setting a world record in the 1940 Olympics but the war 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 in heats against Emil Zátopek.

Lucas said: “It was certainly nice to be reunited with Olympians, although many of which I did not know as they were from different sports or later years as I am now the oldest one still living.

“I knew a few from later years, but we are all quite friendly when we get together.

“I intended to take part and be pushed in a wheelchair by another Olympian, but when they found out I was the oldest Olympian, they asked me to start the race and I duly did.

“There was nostalgia in many ways and everyone looked after me and helped me around in buggies. The wife was with me and very much enjoyed it as well.”

Former British bobsleigh champion Alastair Kennedy-Rose assisted Lucas on Sunday.

The athlete, who was brought up in Lodsworth and was 1981 Sussex decathlon champion, took part in the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo, along with two other Sussex athletes, Gus Mackenzie and the late Adrian Ross.

Kennedy-Rose said: “It really was a wonderful day. It’s always nice to get together with Olympians of all eras.

“Bill was able to get up and start the race on the podium with Denise Lewis, Steve Cram and other recognised names, before the start of the race and he warned them that he was a qualified track and field judge and to keep their toes behind the line.”

Fellow Sussex Olympian Mike Corby, from Coolham, also travelled to London with Lucas and Kennedy-Rose. He represented Great Britain in international squash and hockey in the Tokyo Olympics in 1964 and Munich in 1972.

Many of the Olympians donned their official Great Britain kit for the event on Sunday as Cram won the mile in 5min 40sec.

The silver medallist in 1984, still holds the British and European record over the fabled distance as he set 3-46.32 more than 30 years ago.

He said: “I loved it. It was amazing seeing loads of people I haven’t seen for years. I hope it can be even better next year – the lads, especially the male runners, can do better. There were far more of the old girls here. It’s great to see so many different sports represented though, it was great fun.”

In the men’s wheelchair race, Paralympic star David Weir set a new record of 3-03, while Adam Clarke and Racheal Bamford were the winners of the British Mile Championships.The six-hour festival also included junior wheelchair events for men and women, plus six British Athletics age-group races for boys and girls.