Romford remembers an Olympic hero from yesteryear

PUBLISHED: 12:19 18 August 2016 | UPDATED: 12:19 18 August 2016

Great Britain's swimming squad face the camera at the 1960 Rome Olympics

Great Britain's swimming squad face the camera at the 1960 Rome Olympics


With the Olympics soon to draw to a close, dozens of sportsmen and women will become home town heroes and national icons.

Stan Clarke with his wife, daughter Lana and son-in-law Martin and grandchildren Anna-Lucia, Robert and AmeliaStan Clarke with his wife, daughter Lana and son-in-law Martin and grandchildren Anna-Lucia, Robert and Amelia

Havering is already home to a few Olympians, including Stan Clarke who competed in the 4x100m relay at the 1960 Rome Olympic games.

56 years on, Stan, who still swims at the age of 78, is well placed to comment on the differences between today’s athletes and those of yesteryear.

“I first started competing when I was around 15 or 16-years-old. I was quite old compared to today’s swimmers,” said Stan, who began swimming with his older siblings at the former West Ham Baths in Plaistow.

“It was a gradual thing from the club to competing in regional competitions and then nationals – I just missed out on the 1956 games in Melbourne.

Stan Clarke and two GB teammates at the 1960 Rome OlympicsStan Clarke and two GB teammates at the 1960 Rome Olympics

“From 1956 I got into the international set up. I was swimming at the 1958 commonwealth games in Cardiff for England at the time. From there I was a permanent member of the international side.”

Despite only being able to train for a few hours a week and having to share pools with the public, Stan loved every minute of it.

“It was brilliant, what can you say about that? In those days we had to go swimming in the baths and you’re in there with the general public.

“You can’t properly swim with the public and kids cutting across you, it was nothing like it is today.

“It’s so different you wouldn’t believe. We only got about three to four hours a week swimming, they are so fit now days.

“It’s no comparison to the old days. The winners of the Olympics in Rome, if you did that time now, you wouldn’t even get in the swimming team.”

Stan, who has lived in Romford since the 1980s, will attend the Essex Masters Championships on September 3 as a spectator.

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