• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Tommy Godwin

Double Olympic medallist and cyclist;

Born: November 5, 1920; Died: November 3, 2012.

Tommy Godwin, who has died aged 91, was the double bronze medallist at the London Olympics of 1948, who began his cycling career on a grocer's delivery bike and concluded it as an ambassador at the 2012 London Olympics.

Throughout his long life, Godwin took an active part in his sport, becoming president of the British Cycling Federation. Fit and athletic into old age, he carried the Olympic torch this summer and supported Team GB every day during competition at the London Velodrome, pictured here with Sir Chris Hoy.

As a youngster, his father had hopes of his son becoming a runner, but the 16-year-old was inspired by Dutch track sprinter Arie van Vliet and his UK counterpart WW Maxfield at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

At just 19 he won his first kilometre track event in Coventry in 1939, but war sidelined him in competition until, in the revived championships of 1944, he won the five-mile track title at the same meeting at which Reg Harris appeared. It was the measure of the man that Godwin seemed to tackle any distance with the same effortless ease, from 1000 metres on the track to 25 miles on the road.

For the Austerity Olympics of 1948, Godwin worked 49 hours a week as an electrician in the BSA factory in Birmingham, training when he could and racing at weekends. In May 1948 he received news that he was a "possible" for the British Olympic team, and on August 4, six days after the Games opened, was told he had been selected.

There was no Games Village and with his team mates, Dave Ricketts, Alan Geldard and Wilf Waters, he stayed in the home of cycling journalist Bill Mills, with his mother coming down from Birmingham to cook for them all.

At the exposed open-air track at Herne Hill, the team took Olympic bronze in pursuit, and against a lack of preparation so profound that on the start line the four had no idea of their starting order.

Two days later UK team officials approached Godwin and told him he would represent Britain in the kilometre events 48 hours later. Two years later, at the British Empire Games in Auckland, he took bronze, again at the kilometre.

A strict amateur – he never won anything more than watches, clocks, furniture and canteens of cutlery – Thomas Charles Godwin was born in Connecticut of British parents, and returned to the UK at the age of 12. He bought his first racing bike for nearly £11, paying for it out of his £1.60 weekly wage at 50p down, and then 10p weekly.

His infectious cheerfulness combined with ruthless dedication rubbed off on Hugh Porter, one-time British professional world pursuit champion, who recalled Godwin as British cycling team manager at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. "He treated every day as the best in his life, and ran the Olympic squad with unbridled passion," he said, adding: "He was also a strict disciplinarian."

When his racing days were over, Godwin became involved in the administration and promotion of cycling, running the first British training camp in Majorca, and initiating the first track course at Lillieshall. As the first paid national coach, he trained a generation of track cyclists, including Graham Webb, holder of the British hour record and winner of the world road race championship, and Mick Bennett, who won bronze at the 1972 and 1976 Olympics.

The complete enthusiast for life, he reassembled his 1948 Olympic track bike earlier this year to display at a cycling club dinner. In demand as a speaker, his packed 2012 diary included one weekend with three functions in one day.

In a quirky coincidence, there have been two famous cycling Tommy Godwins, with his namesake setting a record in 1939 for cycling 75,065 miles in a year, an average of more than 205 miles a day.

The Tommy of the track was predeceased by his wife Eileen last year.

Contextual targeting label: 
Block list

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

130524