Arthur Whitford

Biographical information

TypeCompeted in Olympic Games
SexMale
Full nameArthur John•Whitford
Used nameArthur•Whitford
Born2 July 1908 in Swansea, Swansea, Wales (GBR)
Died7 January 1996 in Swansea, Swansea, Wales (GBR)
AffiliationsSwansea YMCA, Swansea (GBR)
NOC Great Britain

Biography

Swansea-born Arthur Whitford dominated British gymnastics in the latter part of the 1920s and throughout the 1930s. He was the national champion nine years in succession between 1928-36, and added a 10th title in 1939. In addition, he won four Scottish, nine Welsh and two Irish titles. Whitford also won national team titles with the Swansea YMCA. At the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics he was the highest placed British gymnast in the team event, as was the case every time he represented Great Britain.

Whitford took up gymnastics at the Sketty Church Lads’ Club at the age of 12. After the club closed he was away from the sport for barely two years until Whitford’s cousin took him to the Swansea YMCA in 1926 where coach Walter Standish immediately saw a huge future for what was a frail-looking youngster. Under Standish’s guidance, Whitford developed quickly and, within two weeks at his new club, represented them in the final of the Boys’ Team Championship of Wales against Newport.

When Whitford won his first national title in 1928, it was ironic that it was the first time the championship had been held in Wales, and furthermore, it was at Swansea. After winning his ninth consecutive national title in 1936 Whitford gave up competing competitively, but returned two years later after his father talked him in to preparing for the 1940 Helsinki Olympics. Within three weeks of his comeback, Whitford won his tenth national title.

With no competitive gymnastics during the World War II, Whitford coached gymnasts at his own club, the Sketty Olympic Gymnasium, which he had opened in 1933. It was there that he coached his younger half-brother Jack to become national champion three times, in 1947-48, and 1952. Arthur was asked to coach the British men’s team and the 1948 and 1952 Olympics, and in 1953 played a big part in getting a Welsh team, representing Great Britain, to compete at the first Gymnaestrada at Rotterdam.

Whitford followed his master shoemaker father into the boot and shoe business. Originally he was a boot and shoe retailer, and then became a leather merchant. Arthur was inaugurated into the Welsh Sports Hall of Fame in 2004.

Results

Games Discipline (Sport) / Event NOC / Team Pos Medal As
1928 Summer Olympics Artistic Gymnastics (Gymnastics) GBR Arthur Whitford
Individual All-Around, Men (Olympic) 63
Team All-Around, Men (Olympic) Great Britain 11
Horse Vault, Men (Olympic) =61
Parallel Bars, Men (Olympic) 63
Horizontal Bar, Men (Olympic) 64
Rings, Men (Olympic) 67
Pommelled Horse, Men (Olympic) =68

Olympic family relations