A 92-year-old woman from Kingston-upon-Thames whose efforts helped lead to women’s cycling being including in the Olympic Games will carry the London 2012 Olympic torch as it passes through the borough next year.
Eileen Gray has been named one of the torch carriers as the torch relay passes through the borough on 24 July, four days before the men’s road race whizzes by twice on its way from Central London to Box Hill and back on Saturday 28 July.
That will be followed 24 hours later by the women’s road race, an event that Mrs Gray helped pioneer, while the men’s and women’s time trials, which start and finish at Hampton Court Palace, will also visit the borough.
The Your Local Guardian website reports that Mrs Gray started cycling in earnest during World War II and in 1946 was one of three British women invited to an event in Ordurp, Denmark.
The following year, she stopped cycling competitively after her son was born, and says she became “more and more involved on the other side,” proving to be an energetic and skilful administrator.
Her achievements included getting women’s world records recognised, helping set up the inaugural women’s world championships in 1958 – Beryl Burton would become the first of three British women to win that – and achieving Olympic status in 1984.
Burton repeated her success in 1967, and in 1984, Mandy Jones would also pull on the rainbow jersey after winning the world championship road race. At Beijing in 2008, Nicole Cooke became Britain’s first Olympic road race champion, adding the world title the following month in Varese.
Mrs Gray’s efforts saw her awarded the MBE and CBE for services to cycling, and she was inducted into British Cycling’s Hall of Fame when it was created last year.
She remains president of the London Youth Games, and away from sport was also mayor of Kingston in 1990-91.
“I must say, it was a bit of a shock,” she said in reaction to the news that she had been selected to carry the torch. ‘I think for 92 I’m doing extremely well.”
The London 2012 Games will be the first time in Olympic history that there has been an equal number of events across both genders both on the road and the track.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.