Commemorative headstone unveiled at the grave of Britain’s first Olympic Champion
A special ceremony took place on the 18th March 2012 in Melbourne, Australia, in order to commemorate the life of Launceston Elliot, Britain’s first Olympic Champion and gold medallist.
Chairman of the British Olympic Association, Lord Colin Moynihan, was responsible for a delegation of Olympic and government representatives from all over the world, who witnessed the unveiling of a headstone at Elliot’s previously unmarked grave.
Minister for Sport and the Olympics, Hugh Robertson, was also present, as well as British High Commissioner Paul Madden and Australian Minister for Sport Senator Kate Lundy. Elliot’s grand daughter, Ann Elliot Smith, and great grandson, Ian Smith, were also there to pay tribute to Elliot’s amazing achievements.
Colin Moynihan said, “As our first Olympic Champion from the inaugural modern Olympic Games, Launceston Elliot will always hold a very special place in British Olympic history and it is appropriate that we are recognising this remarkable Olympian's unique achievement.
“We were honoured to be joined by Launceston’s granddaughter and great grandson, and we greatly appreciate the support and friendship of our counterparts in the Australian Olympic Committee and the wider Olympic Family.”
Elliot’s sporting specialities were in athletics, rope climbing, wrestling and weightlifting and he initially gained recognition for his talents in the 1896 Athens Olympics. It was during the ‘one hand lift’ event, that he made history by achieving Britain’s first Olympic gold medal of the Modern Olympic Games, as well as in the ‘two hand lift’ for which he was awarded silver.
This was no mean feat, however, as Elliot was pipped at the post for the gold medal in the ‘two handed lift’ by Danish opponent, Viggo Jensen. The two lifted the same weight, yet Elliot’s slight shift in the position of his foot cost him the win, as the judges said Jensen had better ‘style’. Elliot redeemed himself, however, in the ‘one hand lift’, lifting 71 kilograms as opposed to Jensen’s 57.
Elliot won his gold medal at the tender age of 21, and was further responsible for two out of the six silver medals in weightlifting that Britain has gained to date.
Throughout his life, Launceston Elliot partook in a variety of sporting events including weightlifting, bodybuilding/physique competitions, wrestling, Scottish sports, strongman contests and as a showman, before eventually becoming a farmer in Australia in the 1920’s until his death in August 1930, aged 56.