Becoming an Olympian is not always a walk in the park

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SPORT is a mix of highs and lows and one man from Lancashire’s history who knows all about that is one Robert Bridge.

He excelled at his sport, speed walking, in the first part of the last century, but never achieved his dream.

Robert was born in 1883 in Lathom, the eldest of 14 children, and moved to Chorley in 1898, where he was a postman and later worked in a dental practice.

In his spare time, Robert had a passion for athletic sports and became a self-taught, home-trained walker.

At the 1912 Olympics in Stockhlom, he took part in the 10km walk.

However, he never fulfilled his golden dream and was disqualified from the race.

Robert’s left arm was deformed at birth, which led to suspicions about his walking style. This was a possible reason for his disqualification.

In the 1913 season, he beat all competition and became Northern Amateur and International Walking Champion.

In 1914, he covered one mile in seven mins, 21 and 3/5ths seconds to take the world record.

He said: “My greatest ambition is to win the Olympic Games walking contest for England in 1916.”

His dreams were dashed once again and he was never to achieve this goals as the 1916 games, to be hosted in Berlin, did not take place because of the war.

Robert was the Amateur Athletic Association champion for 1912, 1913 and 1914 over two miles and seven miles and, in 1919, retained the two miles championship.

It all ended in 1926 when he had an accident.

His motorcycle was involved in a serious collision at Adlington and he lost one of the legs which had carried him to glory.

Even after this injury he acted as umpire at athletic events.

He left Chorley to go into business in Liverpool where he died in July 1953.

The photographs of Robert are from the George Birtill collection, held at Chorley Library and available on Lancashire Lantern. Images courtesy of Lancashire Lantern.