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Harry pedalled to the Games on his racing bike
FORGET Bradley Wiggins, Padiham’s Olympic medallist Harry Hill had to produce his own marathon effort just to reach the 1936 Berlin Games – not to mention getting home again!
The cycling legend, who was presented his bronze medal in the 4,000m team pursuit by Adolf Hitler, could not afford the train fare to travel to meet up with the British team in London and so made the circa 200-mile journey on the bike he planned to ride at the Olympics.
The effort was worth it as he and his team-mates stormed to bronze at Berlin but, on his return to Britain, another gruelling bike ride home awaited him.
But Hill’s purchase of an Olympic souvenir jacket in Berlin rendered him unable to purchase food for the journey home and, weak from hunger, he hitched a ride for the final 30 miles.
Bob Clark, a former Padiham town mayor, said: “I met Harry a few times when he used to come up to Padiham Cricket Club. He was getting on a bit then but he still went around everywhere on his bike.”
Hill, who was born in Padiham in 1916, was the oldest surviving British male winner of an Olympic medal when he died of pneumonia in 2009.
Raised by his mother in Sheffield, Hill started competing in time trials across the country after joining Sheffield Phoenix cycling club as a teenager.
The 1936 Berlin Olympics, which will be forever associated with Hitler and the Nazis, was to prove the pinnacle of a career that continued to hit highs.
In 1937, he entered the Guiness Book of Records when he became the first person to cycle 25 miles in an hour on in indoor track and he went on to break the professional hour record in 1939.
During World War Two, Hill moved to Barrow-in-Furness to help build submarines to mark the end of his professional career, but he enjoyed a glittering amateur career – combined with running a garage in Radcliffe, Bury. He won a sackful of medals and was a five-time winner of the national veterans title. He celebrated his retirement in 1960 by cycling across North America.
He even attepted to equal his own world record at the age of 80 by seeing how far he could cycle in an hour and fell just 1.5miles short of the 25 miles he had achieved previously.
His Olympic achievements received the acclaim they deserved when he met the Queen at a Buckingham Palace reception celebrating 100 years of the British Olympian Association in 2005.