Book tribute to golden Olympic grandad Cecil

Cecil Griffiths book cover
Cecil Griffiths book cover

The remarkable story of an athlete who won Olympic gold 94 years ago, but was denied the chance to become even greater, is about to be published.

The biography was written by Studham man John Hanna, whose wife, Vanessa, is the granddaughter of Cecil Griffiths, one of only four Welsh track and field athletes to gain an Olympic gold medal.

Cecil was just 20 when he was a member of Great Britain’s successful 4 x 400metre relay team at the 1920 Games in Antwerp. His brilliant opening leg run was a major factor in their triumph.

The following year, Cecil set the 440 yards Welsh record of 49.8 seconds – a time that was not beaten for another 32 years. But then Cecil’s running career was shattered when he was banned by the athletics authorities for receiving prize money in wartime charity races as a junior.

Although this working class Neath-born athlete managed to break into the world dominated by Oxford and Cambridge graduates, he was denied his chance to line up with the 1924 Olympians who would later find fame in the film Chariots Of Fire.

The book – Only Gold Matters: Cecil Griffiths, The Exiled Olympic Champion – traces Cecil’s life and his unequal struggle against the athletics establishment that singled him out. Its publication is timed to coincide with the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

The author, who is retired and lives in Dunstable Road, has written this, his first book, after a varied working life which included a Whitehall civil servant and a marine biologist helping to excavate the Mary Rose.

The Gazette told in August 2012 how John and Vanessa had flown a flag showing the Welsh dragon at the Olympic Stadium in London. They also proudly wore T-shirts with Cecil’s achievementprinted across them.

John said: “He was just an amazing athlete.”

Cecil died suddenly of heart failure at Edgware Tube Station on April 11, 1945.

Vanessa said: I was born in 1954 so I missed out on knowing him by nine years. I really wish I could have met him.”

> Only Gold Matters: Cecil Griffiths, The Exiled Olympic Champion is published in paperback by Chequered Flag Publishing on June 1 (£11.99).