From one olympian to another

 

Royal Air Force Regiment gunner Senior Aircraftsman Lewis Keeble 21, has been selected as reserve in the under 66kg category for the British Olympic Judo Team but is not the first Halton linked RAF personality with an Olympic story.

Wartime RAF Spitfire Ace and three time Olympic Champion Donald Osborne Finlay (1909-1970) has made it into the latest update to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Finlay, an Olympic hurdler, is among a selection of new entries on figures in the history of Olympic sports in Britain. Finlay took bronze in the hurdles at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics, after a photo-finish (having originally been placed fourth). He took silver in the same event in Berlin in 1936, when he was British team captain. He competed again at the London Games in 1948, when he took the Olympic oath at Wembley Stadium on behalf of all the competitors. Grey-haired and nearing forty, he was remarkable in the late 1940s for clocking times equal to his pre-War records.

Finlay joined the RAF in 1925 and gained his wings in 1931. During the Battle of Britain he was in Fighter Command, flying Spitfires, bringing down three enemy aircraft. He continued flying during his promotions and as acting Wing Commander, shot down a Messerchmitt in a head on attack in March 1942. He remained on active service throughout the war, and then served at RAF Halton until his retirement in 1959.

Finlay is something of a hero at RAF Halton (the home for 17 RAF sports) with the recruit’s gymnasium bearing his name. It is this sort of inspiration that will hopefully spur on the Olympic hopeful Keeble as he uses London 2012 as a springboard for the next few years where he aims to compete and medal in Rio De Janeiro in 2016. Lewis said: “If I was asked two years ago, where do you see yourself in the Olympic team closer to the games, I would have said that being number 3 or 4 leading up to the event would have been realistic, but the fact that I am considered by GB and the coaching staff as a potential Olympian gives me massive confidence.”

With black-belt status Lewis started judo when he was 7 years old. He joined the RAF Regiment 4 years ago; with the support of the RAF Sports Board, he has had the opportunity to train in the martial art full time for Great Britain and is based at the Dartford Judo Performance Centre. Lewis’s coach Darren Warner 39, said: “Lewis is in a transitional phase at the moment as he is coming out of juniors to become a senior. It’s a difficult time because he has come from being at the top in juniors and is working towards the top in seniors. Technically Lewis is one of the best players we have in the country. We need to transfer this into competition. His military career has helped Lewis with the disciplined and structured side of Judo. I expect Lewis in the next few years to become British no 1.”

Lewis added: “The two dominating countries in Judo used to be Japan and Russia, however Judo has exploded in Europe and Mongolia. It’s really open as to who is going to take home the Olympic medals. Looking to the future for 2013 and 2014 my aspiration is to have a World medal and European medal which will spring board me on to the 2016 Olympics selections and ideally I want an Olympic medal at Rio de Janeiro.”