British cyclist Tommy Godwin died last Saturday just two days short of his 92nd birthday. He was a track cyclist who won two Olympic Bronze Medals in the Team Pursuit and the 1,000 meter (The Kilo.) Time Trial.
This was in the 1948 Olympics; the first Olympics after WWII and held in London. This Olympics was run on a shoe-string budget of around 700,000 British Pounds. Some of the athletes were housed in old army camps; others were taken into people's homes.
When the Olympics returned to London this year Tommy was an Ambassador for the Games, and also at the age of 91, carried the Olympic Torch as it passed through his home town of Solihull, a district of Birmingham.
Tommy Godwin was born in Connecticut, USA in 1920; his British parents had emigrated there a few years earlier, but were forced to return to the UK in 1932 due to the Great Depression that hit the US at that time.
The family settled in the Birmingham area where Tommy remained for the rest of his life. At that time Birmingham was the center of the bicycle manufacturing industry in England, if not the world. When Tommy left school he went to work for the BSA Company; one of the larger bicycle factories.
In 1950 Tommy Godwin opened a retail bicycle shop in Kings Heath, Birmingham. A successful business that he would run for the next 36 years. It was a visit to this bike shop that I would first meet Tommy Godwin in 1952.
I was 16 years old and racing my first season; I rode my bike 70 plus miles from my home town of Luton, (About 30 miles north of London.) to Birmingham. I rode with two more experienced riders who were in their mid 20s.
On the ride there my two companions filled me in as to who Tommy Godwin was, so when I arrived I was somewhat impressed to be in the presence of an Olympic Medalist; but I think what intrigued me most was his Birmingham, or “Brummie” accent.
I had spent my childhood in London then moved to Luton in 1949; the deference between the two regions was not that marked. But traveling over 70 miles to the West Midlands the dialect was completely different and strange to my ear.
I remember I bought a couple of very nice tubular tires and we rode back to Luton the same day. Years later as an adult I moved to the West Midlands area myself in 1969. I settled in Worcester, just 25 miles south of Birmingham.
In the years that followed I would meet up with Tommy Godwin again several times.
He was always present at various track events and BCF meetings in the Birmingham area.
Tommy had moved on from competitive cycling, to bike business entrepreneur, to the administrative side of the sport of cycling.
He was the first paid British Cycling Coach in 1964 and managed the British Olympic Cycling Team at the Tokyo Summer Games. He was also President of the British Cycling Federation for a period. I think it is safe to say that the success of British cyclists in recent years, especially on the track, was due in part to the initial coaching started by Tommy Godwin.
Tommy was not a close friend, but was someone that was always approachable and a pleasure to meet. I admired him as a teen, and when I met him again in the 1970s. I admire his memory today for all that he has given to the sport of cycling.
Footnote: This Tommy Godwin is not to be confused with another great cyclist with the exact same name. The other Tommy Godwin was a long distance legend who lived from 1912 to 1975 and holds the world record for miles covered in one year; over 75,000 miles, which is over 200 miles a day for a year