17 Jul 2012

Olympic archive: swimmer Judy Grinham (1956)

100 metres backstroke gold medallist Judy Grinham returned to London in the depths of winter after her 1956 Melbourne triumph. She was welcomed home by friends, relatives – and ITN’s John Hartley.

At the tender age of 17, Judy Grinham became the first British woman since 1924 to win an Olympic swimming gold medal, writes Ian Searcey. She set a world record en route to the 100m backstroke title at the 1956 Melbourne Games.

When she returned to London airport on 16 December, she was greeted by enthusiastic relations, friends from the Hampstead Ladies Swimming Club – and ITN reporter John Hartley.

Taken by surprise by the cheers, Judy is presented with a bouquet of flowers from her swimming club. She seems a little overwhelmed as she shyly negotiates her way through a short interview with Hartley, before the choruses of For She’s a Jolly Good Fellow from her young supporters. She greets her cousin Elaine Grinham before posing for the press with her proud family and that all-important medal.

Grinham went on to win backstroke titles at the 1958 European Championships and Commonwealth Games, becoming the first athlete to hold the Olympic, European and Commonwealth gold medals at the same time.

She retired at her peak on her 20th birthday. After giving acting a try, she joined the Daily Express in time to report on the 1960 Olympics in Rome. She was created an MBE in 2007, 50 years after winning Melbourne gold.