90-year-old Stan's Olympic dream

FOR former Suffolk Olympian Stan Cox an offer to carry the torch to mark the start of London 2012 would be the greatest birthday present he could ask for.

Craig Robinson

FOR former Suffolk Olympian Stan Cox an offer to carry the torch to mark the start of London 2012 would be the greatest birthday present he could ask for.

The sprightly pensioner - who turned 90 yesterday - competed in the summer Games the last time they were held in the capital in 1948.

Regular walks along the promenade in his home town of Felixstowe ensure the former 10,000m and marathon runner is still as fit as a fiddle.

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And he would like nothing more than to be involved in the Olympics again when they are back on home soil.

Mr Cox said: “I don't think they'll let me carry the torch for health and safety reasons - I'll be 94 by then - but you never know. It would be good to be able to do something.

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“Even if I just run or walk the last few steps and then hand it to someone else. It'd be nice because it will feel like I've come around full cycle - I'm possibly one of the only people still alive who competed at the London Olympics in 1948. I don't know but there's a good chance.”

Mr Cox celebrated his birthday yesterday by leading a group of health walkers along Felixstowe prom before finishing up in the Fludyers Hotel for a party with family and friends.

“We have a weekly group of which I am a walk leader,” Mr Cox said. “I still really enjoy it and it's important for me to keep fit. Most of the people are younger than me but I like to think I still keep them on their toes. We walk between two and three miles a week but I like to get out for more than that if I can.”

Now friends of Mr Cox, who lives in Dellwood Avenue, are campaigning to try and ensure he is part of the 2012 experience.

Alan Muchal, another leader of the Felixstowe walks, said: “Stan took part in the last Olympic Games to be held in Britain in 1948 and we think it would be a lovely gesture, linking past and present, if he were to be one of those chosen to carry the flame.”

Mr Cox started his running career in 1939 but it was cut short by the onset of the Second World War - during which he served in Iraq with the RAF as part of the armoured car unit that patrolled the desert.

After the conflict he was able to get back to his original fitness and he competed in the 10,000m at the 1948 London Olympics, where he finished seventh - although commentators thought he ran an extra lap.

“Things were very different back then and athletes were expected to contribute to their own expenses,” he said. “I had to take a day out of my holidays to complete my run and then it was back to work - so I didn't even see the rest of the Games. There was still rationing in this country so it wasn't always easy to eat how I needed to - although I was allowed an extra pint of milk a day.”

It was not until the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki that Mr Cox really hit the headlines with fellow Brit Jim Peters - when they were regarded as the fastest marathon runners in the world.

“Because of the media interest we got permission to fly over just a few days before to try and keep ourselves out of the limelight,” Mr Cox said. “However it backfired because the old freight aircraft we were using only had temporary seats and the door didn't shut properly so there was a constant draught while we were flying. It must have affected me because on the day of the race my whole left side - which was facing the draught - was paralysed. I ran about 20 miles and then collapsed.”

Unfortunately it was a similar story during the marathon at the 1954 Vancouver Empire Games - now the Commonwealth Games - which was run in the middle of a heatwave.

“I was overcome by the heat and actually lost consciousness,” Mr Cox said. “I ran into a telegraph pole, which knocked me out and I fell into a ditch. The next thing I remember is waking up in hospital - I was on a salt and glucose drip and I had blisters everywhere. Jim Peters was in the bed next to me - he made it to the final track but collapsed just short of the finishing post.”

Mr Cox retired from running in 1956 but kept working for the British Amateur Athletics Association as a judge for field events - when he had a near death experience.

“I was measuring out a throw for the javelin and as I stood up and another one went right through me,” he said. “It was about an inch from my heart - fortunately it hit a rib which deflected it away but if it had gone the other way then it would have been curtains. I ended up in hospital again so I've certainly suffered for my sport.”

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