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A nation swimming

Anita Lonsbrough

Anita Lonsbrough
  • Born: 10 August 1941

Anita Lonsbrough

Anita Lonsbrough was a pioneer for women’s swimming – achieving a number of notable firsts during a dominant six years at the very top of her sport.

She was only 16 when she struck gold at the 1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in the 220 Yard Breaststroke and the 4×110 Yard Medley Relay.

It was two years later in Rome, however, that Lonsbrough achieved the greatest moment of her impressive career.

At the 1960 Olympic Games, Lonsbrough triumphed in the 200m Breaststroke, clocking a new world record time of 2:49.5 as she pipped West Germany’s Wiltrud Urselmann to the top of the podium.

A further four gold medals followed at the 1962 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Perth and the 1962 European Championships in Leipzig.

In total, she won 12 international medals between 1958 and 1962, had the honour of holding the Olympic, Empire and European titles at the same time and set five world records during her career.

Her successes resulted in her becoming the first female athlete to win the BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

Lonsbrough was appointed an MBE for her services to swimming in 1963 and at the Tokyo 1964 Olympic Games, she was the first British female to have the honour of being flagbearer at the opening ceremony.

Following her retirement in 1964, Lonsbrough taught swimming, became a swimming commentator for BBC radio and was also the Daily Telegraph’s swimming correspondent.