Oldest living Olympian Bill Lucas dies aged 101

Bill Lucas, the oldest living Olympian, has died at the age of 101. Picture: Derek Martin
Bill Lucas, the oldest living Olympian, has died at the age of 101. Picture: Derek Martin

Oldest living Olympian Bill Lucas has died at the age of 101.

Born on January 16, 1917, Bill, of Alley Groves, Cowfold, ran the 5,000 metres at the 1948 Olympics in London.

He also completed 81 missions as a bomber pilot in the RAF.

He died in the Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath on March 28.

Brian Little, member of the Probus Club of Horsham Arun, has paid tribute to him. He said: “Bill will be sadly missed by all the members and all his friends and colleagues in all the organisations in which he was associated with.

“He realised early in his life that he had the ability of a good athlete and joined the Belgrave Harriers.

“He concentrated on long distance running and commenced his training for the 5,000 metres which he intended to run in the 1940 Olympics.

“Hitler and the Second World War intervened so Bill joined the RAF and he became a bomber pilot. His career was quite incredible – he did 81 missions.

“He did a large number of flights in the pathfinder section whose job was to proceed the bombing raid and mark the area to be bombed.

“He told the story that the only time something went wrong was when he landed back in the UK and ran out of runway and finished upside-down.

“He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. He continued his RAF connection for the remainder of his life spending a large amount of his time raising money for the RAF Benevolent Fund.

“Bill did eventually get his place in the Olympics at the age of 32. He ran in the 5,000 metres but was beaten by Emil Zatopec who became the gold medal winner.

“Until his death Bill was the oldest living Olympian in the world. He was a founder member of the Probus Club of Horsham Arun which celebrated its 25th anniversary last year. He continued to attend meetings until January 2018.

Known as one of the ‘Bomber Boys’, Bill lived with his second wife, Sheena, whom he was married to for 38 years but his health and mobility suffered since the pair were involved in a car accident in November near Burgess Hill.

Bill discovered he liked running at school. He left at 15 and joined an insurance company, which encouraged sports.

He soon became an outstanding athlete in the company attaining county standard.