Britain’s Paralympic Greats – Margaret Maughan

Labour Party

Margaret Maughan has the impressive distinction of winning Britain’s first Paralympic Gold medal at the inaugural Paralympic Games in Rome 1960 in Archery. She went on to compete in four further Paralympic Games, winning a number of further medals.

It was in Malawi that Margaret first encountered archery, watching ‘an eccentric Englishman’ firing arrows from a bow on a lush, green golf course in 1959.  She had no idea at this point that she would be creating British history doing something very similar 12 months later.

Margaret had been working as a teacher in Nyasaland, now Malawi, the landlocked country in south-east Africa, when she was involved in a very serious car crash.  The Foreign Office transported her back to the UK for further treatment, where she was admitted into the Stoke Mandeville hospital, the spiritual home of the Paralympic movement, specialising in spinal injuries for injured soldiers from the Second World War.

Margaret started archery as part of a gym session with her physiotherapist.  She said that the “treatment was centred around being as active as you could possibly be.”

Speaking to Channel 4 in the build-up to this years Paralympic games in London, she discussed her journey to becoming Britain’s first gold medalists:

“When you first become paralysed you lose your balance, you can’t feel how you are sitting.  The archery was brilliant because it made you sit up straight in your wheelchair, you had to spread your arms out and strengthen your shoulders. I enjoyed it and I was quite good at it.  I started purely for rehabilitation. I was given a bow and arrows when I left hospital and returned to my family in Lancashire. I found an archery club in Preston and they were very kind to me, they never had a member in a wheelchair before. I did it more as a social thing to get to know people.”

“I didn’t realise I was going to Rome, but I got this letter inviting me to compete in archery and swimming, for which I was very bad at. But we had a go at everything in those days.  In the space of 12 months, I was doing archery in the hospital to winning gold in Rome. I didn’t think I had made history, I knew I had won the first British medal for the team. We won 25 golds in total that year with 70 participants.” 

Margaret won a further two Paralympic gold medals, along with two silvers, at the Tel Aviv (68), Heidelberg(72), Toronto (76) and Arnhem (80) Games in dartchery (a combination of darts and archery) as well as lawn bowls.

Margaret will be attending this summer’s games and will be an inspirational figure for all the young athletes competing for Team GB.

Britain’s Olympic Greats – Anita Lonsbrough MBE

Labour Party

Anita Lonsbrough won gold for Great Britain at the Rome Olympics 1960. It would be another 48 years until another Brit would match her spectacular achievement, when Rebecca Adlington swam to victory in Beijing.

Not only did Anita win gold in Rome for the 200m breaststroke, she also broke the world record with a time of 2min 49.5 seconds. Her win was ranked 44th by the Daily Mail in its top 50 Olympic moments. Her illustrious career also saw her take home medals from several European and Commonwealth Championships.

Anita was considered to be one of the 1960’s golden girls of sport, alongside Dorothy Hyman, Anne Packer and Mary Rand. In 1962 she was the first woman to be awarded the BBC sports personality of the year award. A year later she was awarded an MBE for her services to swimming. At the Tokyo games of 1964 Anita had the honour of being the first ever British woman to carry the Union Jack at an Olympic opening ceremony.

Anita’s star shone in a time when swimming was considered to be an amateur sport, and before sponsorship deals allowed sports stars to compete professionally. In order to represent Great Britain, Anita combined her swimming career with a full time job working for Huddersfield Council. To go to the Rome games she even had to save up her holiday entitlement in order to take time off work.

Today Anita is a sports writer for the Daily Telegraph.