Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Meanwood Member Recalls Her Time As An Olympic Athlete!

Her is an article about Vera Shires, who competed in the London 1948 Olympic Games (a shorter version appeared in West Yorkshire News).

Sixty four years ago, Meanwood member Vera Shires was a 19 year old gymnast competing in the London 1948 Olympic Games. 

Vera began her journey to the Olympics at the age of 10 when she started going to a gymnasium with a friend near her home. She paid just 6d to train 3 evenings a week. Her friend did not go to the gymnasium for long, but Vera stuck to it and was accepted into the 1948 Olympic Games. 

The training for the Olympics in 1948 was the opposite of the strenuous training schedules that today’s athletes face. As the war was not long over in 1948, Great Britain was still rationed, which stressed the importance of employment and Vera fortunately managed to book time off work to compete in the Olympic Games. Vera explained how one of her gymnast friends had to decline their invitation to the London 1948 Olympic Games because he would not be paid for the time off. 

As mentioned the war was not long over and it seems the games replenished Great Britain as it encouraged countries to come together. Unfortunately, many athletes missed out on competing in the Olympic Games because due to the war there were no 1940 or 1944 games, which concluded in some athletes being too old. 

Due to Germany, Russia and Japan not taking part in 1948 only 60 countries competed, which meant that it only cost £700,000 to host the games, whereas the London 2012 Olympic Games is thought to reach £24bn in cost. 

In 1948, the gymnastics were supposed to be performed outdoors at Wembley Stadium, but it was one of the wettest Olympics in history, which meant the gymnasts were moved to Empress Hall where the weightlifting, boxing and wrestling took place. 

In the 1948 Olympic Games the female gymnasts did not compete individually, but as a team, performing on the exercise floor, balance beam, swinging rings and the vault. There were also set routines, which were performed by each country for judging. 

Vera explained that her fondest memory was the friendship that she gained from staying in Ecclestone Square with competitors from other countries, which led on to hilarious memories of playing Charades when it was already difficult to communicate through ‘sign language’. 

Unfortunately, it was Czechoslovakia, Hungary and the United States that won the Olympic medals for gymnastics as Great Britain placed 9th in front of Belgium and France. 

Overall in the London 1948 Olympic Games, Great Britain came 12th out of 60 countries, winning 23 medals.