As we await the announcement of the 2016 British Olympic team, I thought it would be interesting to look back at the women that have come before them. Those that blazed trails, set standards, and broke down doors over the last sixty years. A history of both gymnastics in great Britain, and women in sport, who all helped pave the way for the team of 2016 to be where they are, genuine medal contenders, and amongst the very best in the world.
In part one I look at the gymnasts from the 1956 to the 1984 games.
If you have and extra info about any of these ladies, particularly if they stayed in gymnastics in any capacity, please do let me know, and I will add it to what is already here.
Having already competed at the both the 1948, and the 1952 Olympics, Pat Hirst was veteran of 38 in Melbourne. She placed 6oth AA, 40th on Vault, 58th on bars, 60th on beam, and 63rd on floor.
For a long time at the British Championships the Pat Hirst Memorial Plate was awarded to the gymnast with the highest bars score. I believe it may have been awarded up to as recently as 2013.
Pat Hirst, date unknown.
Gwynedd Lewis-Lingard, Pat Perks, Margaret Thomas-Neale , Marjorie Raistrick-Carter, Jill Pollard, Dorothy Summers
The team finished 17th in Rome, with Gwynedd the top British AA finisher in 103rd place. Gwynedd was also the highest placed vaulter finishing in 88th, and also top GB gymnast on beam in 101st. Pat was the highest on bars in 106th, on floor in 99th.
Gywnedd Lingered runs Penarth Gymnastics in Wales, and still coaches to this day.
In this photo, Denise Godard, Pat Perks, Gwynedd Lingard, Dorothy Summers and Margaret Neale
Denise Goddard, Monica Rutherford
Denise placed 71st AA, Monica 77th.
On vault, Monica placed 59th, and Denise 60th. Bars, Monica 79th, Denise 76th, Denise 73rd, Monica 78th, and floor Monica 64th, Denise 66th.
On retiring, Monica coached for many years at the OLGA club in Dorset, as well as being a familiar voice of commentary for major gymnastics events.
Denise became head coach of Cardiff Central Youth Club.
Denise and Monica in action at the Tokyo Olympics
1968 Mexico City
Margaret Bell, Mary Prestidge
Margaret placed 74th AA, and Mary 88th.
On vault they tied for 85th place, on bars, Margaret was 69th, and Mary 93rd. On beam, Margaret placed 52nd, and Mary 72nd, and on floor Mary 77th, and Margaret 86th.
Margaret dominated much of the late 60’s and into the 70’s in British gymnastics, taking five AA British titles.
Margaret Bell on beam in 1968, watched by Mary Prestidge
You can see Margaret on bars at the 1968 British championships here from 38 seconds in:
Pamela Hutchinson, Barbara Aldred, Elaine Willet, Avril Lennox, Pamela Hopkins, Yvonne Mugridge
The team placed 18th AA, with Pamela Hutchinson topping the GB all around standings in 99th place.
On vault Elaine was the highest British finisher in 107th, on bars Elaine again in 71st, on beam Pamela Hutchinson in 67th, and on floor Yvonne in 82nd.
After retiring from gymnastics, Yvonne became Arnold, co founder of Europa Gymnastics Club.
Yvonne Mugridge, Pamela Hopkins
Elaine Willet, Avril Lennox
You can see Yvonne on vault and bars, and Pamela briefly on beam in this clip:
Avril and Elaine here:
Avril Lennox, Barbara Slater, Susan Cheesebrough
Avril became the first British woman to qualify for the AA final, placing 35th (at this time the AA was top 36). Barbara placed 68th, and Susan 76th.
Avril was also the highest scorer on each piece, finishing 44th on vault, 53rd on bars, 49th on beam, and 54th on floor.
Avril was British champion four times in total, and was awarded an MBE for services to gymnastics in 1978.
Barbara became BBC Director of Sport in 2009, and was awarded an OBE in 2014 for services to broadcasting.
Susan, Barbara, Avril
Susan Cheesebrough, Suzanne Dando, Denise Jones
All three British gymnasts made the AA final, and finished in the top 30 in Moscow, with Denise topping the AA standings for the British gymnasts finishing in 23rd, Suzanne in 27th, and Susan 28th.
On vault Denise placed 49th , Suzanne 52nd ,Susan 57th.
On bars Denise placed 45th, Suzanne 49th, Susan 53rd.
On beam Denise placed 35th, Susan 37th, Suzanne 45th
Suzanne and Susan tied for 47th on floor, with Denise 58th.
Suzanne didn’t start gymnastics until she was twelve years old in 1973. She came British champion just four years later in 1977.
Susan was British Champion in both 1978 and 1979.
Denise, Suzanne, and Susan in action
Susan’s bars from the Moscow Olympic AA:
1984 Los Angeles
Natalie Davis, Amanda Harrison, Kathy Williams, Lisa Young, Sally Larna, Hayley Price.
Heavily boycotted by the Eastern Bloc, and missing three of the four top three teams in the world in the Soviet Union and East Germany, and Bulgaria, this was nevertheless a big step up for the Great Britain in terms of team results, where they finished in 7th place.
Natalie, Amanda, and Kathy placed 19th, 22nd, and 25th respectively in the AA.
Sally was the top finisher on vault in 23rd, Lisa on bars in 25th, Natalie on beam in 36th, and Natalie again on floor in 26th.
Natalie now coaches at Leatherhead and Dorking Gymnastics club.
Kathy Williams retired in 1987, and is founder and director of a dance company in Leeds.
Amanda needs no introduction to followers of British gymnastics. Amanda Reddin as she is now known, will lead the 2016 Olympic team into Rio as the head national WAG coach of British Gymnastics. Amanda was also personal coach to Beth Tweddle, Britain’s most successful ever gymnast to date, as well as head coach at City of Liverpool home to four of the five 2012 Olympians. Amanda was also awarded an OBE in 2013 for services to sport.
Kathy, Amanda, Hayley, and Sally in action
Kathy in action at the 1983 world championships:
Natalie’s Compulsory beam from the 84 Olympics:
Amanda’s voluntary floor from the 84 Olympics
Sally’s voluntary floor from the 84 Olympics
Hayley Price competing her own vault ‘The Price’ at the 84 Olympics
Lisa’s voluntary bars from the 84 Olympics
In the next post, I will cover the gymnasts competing from Seoul 1988 up till the present day.