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As we all enjoy the London 2012 Olympics few residents of Dinnington, Kiveton Park and Wales will realise that our community had a competitor from the village who took part in the last London Olympics in 1948.

William Henry Blackwell, Bill to his friends, was born on November 19th 1917 at Storth Lane, Kiveton Park. He was the son of Harry and Lucy Blackwell and the eldest grandson of William Henry Blackwell, who came to work at the newly opened Kiveton Park Colliery in the early 1870’s.

Bill was only nine years old when his father, Harry, died and times were hard for him and his mother Lucy. He attended Wales Junior School and is featured on page 28 in the School’s Centenary Booklet. When he was only 14 years old Bill left school and followed his father and grandfather down the mine at Kiveton Colliery.

A fitness fanatic, along with his friends from Kiveton Park and Harthill, he formed a Health and Fitness group which had its headquarters in the old hut at Firvale. The group would swim in Harthill Ponds and give fitness displays in and around the area.

Bill never liked his work down the mine and constantly looked for an alternative form of employment.

When returning from one night shift he read an advertisement in the “Radio Times” seeking young men to join the Metropolitan Police Force in London. This was his chance!

He applied and because of his fitness he was readily accepted. Aged 19 years old he left Kiveton in 1936 and went to London to join the Police.

After the start of the Second World War he joined the Royal Air Force and saw service in Burma fighting the Japanese and was demobbed in 1946.

On his return to the Metropolitan Police Force he resumed his fitness activities and also acted as an examiner for the Amateur Swimming Association. He also became a more than competent wrestler and competed in many competitions which eventually led to him being chosen to represent his country in the Heavyweight free style class at the 1948 London Olympics.

On July 30th 1948 he was one of two British representatives who competed in the event against men from Australia, Belgium, Finland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Iran, Switzerland, Turkey and the U.S.A.

Although he did not win a medal this was no mean feat for a young man from a poor mining family from South Yorkshire.

It is worth noting that, unlike today’s fully sponsored event, in possibly the last truly amateur Games, competitors were expected to buy their own uniforms but were given a badge to put on the blazers they bought for themselves. Gymnasts were also given a pair of underpants!

Many of Bill’s gymnastic achievements are recorded in the London Metropolitan Police Archives along with photographs taken when he was in the Police Sports Team as he was one of only two Metropolitan Police Officers who took part in the 1948 Olympic Games.

Bill spent his retirement from the Force in Ashford, Kent where he died in 2003 aged eighty-six years.

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© 2008 Dinnington History