Black and white photo of Caz Walton and her winning medals at the 1972 Heidelberg Summer Paralympics

Caz Walton OBE (née Bryant) first competed in the Tokyo 1964 Games where she won gold medals for swimming and Britain's first-ever gold in track events. She continued to compete until the 1988 games in Seoul. Caz has won a total number of ten gold, two silver and five bronze Paralympic medals for swimming, athletics, table tennis and fencing.

Interviews with Caz Walton

Inspired by Stoke Mandeville

Interviewer Paul Dickinson, 20th June 2012

I almost got into sport by accident actually. I’d had a couple of years in and out of hospital with various operations, and I was going up to Great Ormond Street for rehab. One of the physios said to me “there’s this thing going on at Stoke Mandeville, why don’t you go and have a look”, you know. I did like sport and I’d started to do a little bit of swimming as rehab and I thought “well, okay” and my parents took me up there and that was it, hooked.

The switch from rehab to competition was seamless I think. I was always competitive anyway and I think, I’d done a bit of swimming and I went to Stoke Mandeville and I saw these other people swimming and doing other sports and I thought “I think could do that, and I think I could possibly do it better” – again, the arrogance of youth. So, I started training. I was really lucky because I got into Beckenham Ladies’ Swimming Club, which was a very successful able-bodied club in those days and they gave me a coach and I went training every minute I could. So that was my first sport, and from there I just moved on to… had to move on to other sports but…

I always wanted to win. It was just something in me. I wanted to be the best, and I was lucky because I did seem to have the sort of talent to help me achieve that and within two months of starting sport, I think I’d broken a couple of national swimming records and the following year, I held three world records in different strokes and it just went on from there really. 

The first time I went to Stoke Mandeville was possibly a little under-whelming. I turned up at the hospital and we were expected to stay in the wards. I dread to think what Health and Safety would say about it today because, I mean, you were so close to the person in the next bed that you could almost pick their leg up and move it by mistake for your own. But, yes, we were either accommodated in the wards themselves, which was the better of the two options, or in sort of nissen huts which had been built by the RAF in 1950-something, which were cold in winter and hot in summer but it wasn’t the way it looked, it was the way it felt. It was just an amazing environment, there was so much of a buzz in those… well I think there still is… but certainly in those days, that’s what caught me, there was a camaraderie. The hospital staff and Poppa Guttmann were amazing, and there was the sport as well.

Sports facilities were a little basic. We got transported up to RAF Halton to swim – they didn’t have a swimming pool on site. We did have a basketball court. When I first went there, there was no athletics track. We only did 60m in those days so we only really needed a 100m strip but that was a long time before it went in. And field events was just, sort of, a painted line on the grass and get on with it. But there was nowhere else like it.

Extract of the interview with Paul Dickinson where Caz talks about her memories of her first ever Games and how at her second she should have been awarded a fourth gold medal but never was…..

PD: Caz, you’ve had a very long and distinguished career, what are your memories first of all about that very first Paralympics that you went to back in 1964?

CW: My first Games was Tokyo 1964, which was one that I wasn’t even selected for, because I replaced somebody who went sick just three weeks beforehand so it’s a complete blur to me until I actually got off the plane at the other end, because, in three weeks, I think I went through three weeks in about 24 hours, just trying to top up the training because I’d tapered off, not being selected and getting everything ready, and it was just so exciting.

I was 17 at the time, and very inexperienced and just to go abroad was exciting but the thrill of competing as well was enormous.

 

PD: You won more medals in 1968, your second Paralympic experience, but it could have been one extra medal, tell us a bit about that and the sort of mystery surrounding where this medal disappeared to?

CW: I went to Tel Aviv in 1968, where I did pick up three gold medals and one or two extraneous bits and pieces as well, but about two years ago I found out that I should have won four gold medals because one of my events was the Pentathlon and apparently the officials didn’t add up all the disciplines so they dropped swimming from my points and had I had those added in, I would have won a gold medal instead of a bronze medal. But I’ve forgotten how many years, but too many years later, it was a bit late to complain.

Winning gold in the 1964 Tokyo Games

In the very early days of Paralympic sport, because there was so little finance… we had to do a number of different sports. If you didn’t do more than one you just weren’t selected. Caz Walton

A perspective on Professor Sir Ludwig Guttmann

Caz Walton's views on the lasting achievements of Professor Sir Ludwig Guttmann

Download a pdf of Caz's full interview here