Grandad was a golden boy at 1920 Olympics

L12-962   30/7/12'Vanessa Hanna's grandfather, Cecil R. Griffiths was a famous athlete and won a gold medal at the 1920 Olympics.'Vanessa is pictured with husband John, who is writing a book about Cecil Griffiths life.'wk 30 RR JX
L12-962 30/7/12'Vanessa Hanna's grandfather, Cecil R. Griffiths was a famous athlete and won a gold medal at the 1920 Olympics.'Vanessa is pictured with husband John, who is writing a book about Cecil Griffiths life.'wk 30 RR JX

HE won Olympic gold in 1920 and later set a record that stood for 32 years. Now his Studham granddaughter and her husband have told his fascinating story.

Born in Neath, Wales, in 1900, Cecil Redvers Griffiths was just 20 when his 4x400m relay team won gold in Antwerp thanks to his brilliant opening leg run.

In 1921, Cecil set the 440 yards Welsh record of 49.8 secs – a time that was not beaten until 1953.

One of only four Welshmen ever to win Olympic track-and-field gold, the 5ft 7ins athlete was plucked from the Queen’s Westminster Rifles in 1918 to run competitively.

As the 30th Olympiad began in London last week, Cecil’s granddaughter Vanessa Hanna and her husband John proudly placed a Welsh flag on the side of their Dunstable Road home with the legend: “My grandfather, Cecil Griffiths, Olympic gold, 1920, 4 x 400 relay”.

John is currently preparing a synopsis to present to publishers in order to release his book about Cecil’s incredible, and somewhat controversial, life.

Antwerp was to be his final Olympics because organisers stripped him of his amateur status as he had accepted “a few shillings” for competitions in his youth.

John told the Gazette: “He was just an amazing athlete.”

John said that Cecil’s greatest race was the 880 yards in the British Championships in 1926 when invitee superstar German Otto Peltzer set a world record, but Cecil – in third – was one of two runners to finish inside the British record.

Cecil died suddenly of heart failure at Edgware tube station on April 11, 1945.

John said: “We think doctors must have found a medical problem in 1939 because he didn’t go to war even though he was of age, but there was nothing they could do about it. His family never knew anything.

“He wrote to his son and told him to meet him at Paddington station that Saturday. He died the day after.”

The couple will be flying the flag at the Olympic Stadium this week. Vanessa said: “I feel like the relay is my event because of my grandad.

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

Vanessa and John are pictured, above, with an original ‘five rings’ flag from Antwerp, the first Olympics to feature the now iconic image. John said: “We think Cecil nicked it!”