Report by James Franklin , Reporter
Sunday, August 19, 2012
FOR most top-class athletes, the only thing that can prevent them from appearing at the Olympic Games is injury or suspension.
But for Mick Holt something rather different stopped him from appearing alongside his two brothers at the 1948 Olympics in London – his job.
Alongside his older brothers John and Tom, he was a keen sportsman and the three were all picked to represent their country in the 1948 games.
John and Tom were born in Ginga in Uganda, where their father was in the civil service, and learned to swim in Lake Victoria.
Mick, now aged 86, was born in Mombasa in Kenya, but the family moved to the United Kingdom when he was very young.
The Holts first moved to Monmouth, where his brothers practised their swimming in the River Wye, before they moved to Weston in 1937.
Mr Holt said the fame of Weston’s Olympic hero Paulo Radmilovic – a four-time gold medal winner in water polo and swimming – was what persuaded his father to move the family there after policemen in Herefordshire had reprimanded his brothers for swimming in the Wye.
The brothers all represented Weston in water polo, regularly competing in games held at Knightstone Island.
Mick said: “At that stage, the water polo team in Weston was like Manchester United.
“We used to hold different events at Knightstone Island which were very popular in the town.
“We would always be recognised whenever we walked down the street.”
During World War Two all three fought against the Axis powers for their country – John and Tom in the RAF and Mick in the Royal Navy air arm.
The younger brother manned a torpedo motor boat to rescue pilots who had bailed out and were stranded in the water.
He said: “We could do about 60mph in that boat, it was a wonderful job.
“But they couldn’t find anybody else to do my job after the war, so I stayed on.”
He continued working there for the next four-and-a-half years – until 1948.
Ahead of the 1948 games all three received an invitation to compete on behalf of Great Britain.
But due to his job, Mick, who was then aged 20, had to turn down the offer and the chance to compete in the water polo.
He continued: “It was disappointing, but I was delighted to have been selected in the first place.
“I couldn’t sign up for the training sessions needed due to my job. But it was unbelievable that I had been selected to represent the British Isles in the first place.”
He was not the only Westonian prevented from competing in the water polo by his job – milkman George Leach could not go as he could not find anyone to take on his round for a week.
John, then aged 26, was selected for the 200m freestyle swimming and Tom, then 24, was called up for the 400m freestyle.
And despite the disappointment of not being able to compete himself, Mick, who now lives in Link Road, Uphill, was able to cheer his brothers on at the games.
Although the duo bowed out at the semi-final stage, their brother was able to cheer them on
He added: “My heart was in my mouth the entire time I was watching them. I was very proud of them, but to be honest it felt like something more than pride.”