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Caz Walton OBE first competed in the Tokyo 1964 Paralympic Summer Games, winning gold medals for swimming and Britain's first ever gold in track events, she continued to compete until the 1988 Paralympic 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.

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

Heidelberg 1972 Games

Early life

Caz (Carol) Walton, nee Bryant, was born on the 1st of February 1947.

In an article in Revolutions, the Official publication of the Peter Harrison Centre for Disability Sport, Loughborough University, Caz recalls the start of her competitive career

Following a long period in Great Ormond Street hospital as a child and intensive rehabilitation, one of the physios suggested that I travel to Stoke Mandeville to see what they were doing there. The Paralympic movement was beginning to take form and although I had only done a little swimming at this stage, once I had competed at National level at Stoke, there was no going back.

Life as a Paralympic athlete

At the age of 17, Caz was one of the youngest British competitors at the Tokyo 1964 Paralympic Games. Her call up to the team came late, the result of someone else falling ill.  

I wasn’t selected for Tokyo, I was really green behind the ears then – I had a bit of talent, but not a coached and trained talent at that stage

Despite that, Caz left Tokyo with a gold medal for each of the two events she competed in.


Geisha Doll presented to Caz Walton for winning the Womens Wheelchair Dash at the Tokyo 1964 Games

Geisha Doll presented to Caz Walton for winning the Women's Wheelchair Dash at the Tokyo 1964 Games

The Tel Aviv 1968 Paralympic Games saw her compete in athletics, basketball, swimming and table tennis. By the time of the Heidelberg 1972 Games, Caz was no longer competing in basketball and swimming but had added fencing, a combination she repeated at the Toronto 1976 Games. At the Seoul 1988 Games, now competing as Caz Walton, she competed in basketball and fencing.

Caz Waltons gold medals from the Tel Aviv 1968 Games

Caz's gold medals from the 1968 Tel Aviv Games

Caz retired from international competition in 1994.

Recollections

Caz recalls the Tokyo 1964 Paralympic Games  

We flew over the pole, which was a heck of a long trip, and fairly shattering, but I must say that the Japanese put on a very good Games and were very welcoming.

Although at the time accessibility was a major problem, she sees those Games as having been a catalyst for the future

There wasn’t such thing as accessible coaches or lifts onto the coach, but because we didn’t know any different, it didn’t seem as strange. .... Accessibility was variable in a lot of the Games that I went to until recently. In actual fact Tokyo was pretty good because the Olympic athletes were housed in bungalows and the Japanese just ramped everything. We also used some of the Olympic arenas too, such as the swimming pool, so it was a huge step forward for the Paralympic Movement at that stage.

 Recalling the Tokyo 1964 opening ceremony, she says  

I was pretty young and fairly awestruck by the Opening Ceremony …. Compared to the Opening Ceremonies of today, it wasn’t in the same league I guess, but for me it was incredibly exciting.

Her response to being asked - Would you mind sharing a career high point and a career low point?

The lowest point in my Paralympic career was not medalling in the 1984 Games. This was for me a home Games at Stoke Mandeville and I wanted so much to bring gold home for the team. It was not to be but my career continued and I have two high points to wipe away the disappointment of 1984. The first was winning gold against the odds in the epee competition in Seoul 1988 and the second was the huge honour of being part of the London 2012 Team and coming into the stadium at the opening ceremony to the roar of the home crowd. It still moves me to tears when I remember the emotion of that moment.

Find out what her favourite display at the National Paralympic Heritage Centre is, here.

Listen to Caz talk about the return to Tokyo for the delayed 2020 Games in this ParalympicsGB video, 100 days until we return to Tokyo.

Retirement as a Paralympic athlete

In 1989, Caz was seconded to the new British Paralympic Association (BPA) by British Telecom (BT), a founding partner, becoming the first BPA employee. She is recognised for having played a key role in the organisations’ development, using her experience to ensure the BPA remains an athlete-focussed organisation. 

She continued to be involved with wheelchair fencing, taking the role of fencing Team Manager in 1996, 2000 and 2008. In 2014 she held the position of Athlete Services Officer and continued to advise the BPA on classification. 

For the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, delayed until 2021 by the Covid19 pandemic, Caz is a British Paralympic Association project manager. Talking about looking for accommodation for the British team she says    

hopefully with some of the changes that have been made, we can leave a legacy in whichever city we’re working in for that country’s athletes or even just normal disabled people so that they have the advantage of having life slightly easier when they go to a strange room too.

Caz also sits on several disabled sports committees, including the WheelPower Sports Management Committee. 

In The London 2012 guide to the Paralympic Games, Caz responded to the question - How would Paralympians and elite athletes with a disability wish to be portrayed?

I don’t mind being called a ‘wheelchair user’ but please don’t call me ‘wheelchair-bound’ or ‘confined to a wheelchair’

On Tuesday, the 28th of August 2012, Caz joined Sir Philip Craven, then International Paralympic Committee (IPC) President, Baroness Susan Masham of Ilton, Sally Haynes and Jane Blackburn as the four national flames were joined to create the London 2012 Paralympic Flame at the Stoke Mandeville Stadium. 

Seven days before the opening ceremony for the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, Caz was back at the Stoke Mandeville Stadium, taking part in the lighting ceremony for the first ever international leg of a Paralympic Torch Relay. After Hannah Cockroft lit the Armillary Sphere, representing the heritage of Stoke Mandeville, Caz lit the Paralympic torch and cauldron.

Caz Walton at the Paralympic flame lighting ceremony for Sochi 2014 Paralympic Games

Caz Walton at the Paralympic flame lighting ceremony for the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Games. Image ©GettyImages

Achievements and awards

Paralympic Games

Caz began her Paralympic career at the Tokyo 1964 Summer Paralympics, winning gold in the slalom and the wheelchair dash. 

Tel Aviv 1968 saw her compete in track and field disciplines, breaststroke and backstroke in swimming and singles and doubles table tennis, finishing the Games with 3 gold and 2 silver medals. It seems the bronze she won in the Women’s Incomplete Pentathlon should have been gold as, the recorded official results appear to contain a miscalculation, her total recorded score only being for the first four events, it excludes the 639 points for the 50m swim.  

The Heidelberg 1972 Paralympic Games were her most successful, Caz won two gold and one bronze for athletics, gold in table tennis singles and gold in Women's Foil Novice Individual.

Competing in similar events at the Toronto 1976 Games Caz won three more bronze medals in athletics, table tennis, and fencing. 

At the Seoul 1988 Summer Paralympics, Caz competed in wheelchair basketball, but the team lost all four preliminary matches, but won her tenth gold, and last Paralympic medal, in the épée individual 4–6. 

If Caz had been awarded the gold medal in 1968, she would have equalled Tanni Grey-Thompsons’ 11 golds.

Other sporting events

Caz represented England at the 1966, Second Commonwealth Paraplegic Games in Kingston, Jamaica, the 1970 Third Commonwealth Paraplegic Games, in Edinburgh, Scotland, winning a total of 11 medals, including five gold. At the 1974, Fourth Commonwealth Paraplegic Games in Dunedin, New Zealand she won five gold, one silver and one bronze in fencing, track and field, including pentathlon and table tennis. 

She also competed in European and World Championships.

Other awards and recognition

In 1970 Caz was awarded the Bill McGowran Trophy for Disabled Sports Personality of the Year from the Sports Journalists' Association. 

HRH The Prince of Wales inducted Caz in to the Stoke Mandeville Hall of Fame in 2003. 

The Queen’s Birthday Honours list 2010 saw her made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for her services to disability sport. 

At the BPA's 25th anniversary event, on the 11th of December 2014, Caz received a lifetime achievement award, in recognition of the ‘immense dedication’ of the organisations’ longest serving employee. 

In 2017 she won the Sunday Times Lifetime Achievement Award.

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

References

  • https://www.wheelpower.org.uk/characters/carol-walton-obe
  • https://www.paralympic.org/news/british-paralympic-association-celebrates-25-years
  • https://www.insidethegames.biz/articles/1024323/paralympic-medallist-across-five-different-sports-handed-bpa-lifetime-achievement-award
  • https://paralympicanorak.wordpress.com/2012/04/08/things-just-didnt-add-up-for-caz-walton-nee-bryant-in-tel-aviv/
  • https://library.olympic.org/default/digitalCollection/DigitalCollectionAttachmentDownloadHandler.ashx?parentDocumentId=69352&documentId=158482&skipWatermark=true&skipCopyright=true
  • https://www.lboro.ac.uk/media/media/research/phc/downloads/newsletters/Newsletter%20201819%20Issue%2024.pdf
  • https://www.sportingheritage.org.uk/content/what-we-do/projects/the-sporting-heritage-of-disability-and-womens-sports/women-in-civil-service-sport-2
  • https://www.dreams.co.uk/sleep-matters-club/paralympic-village-japan/
  • https://bccjacumen.com/2018-british-business-awards/
  • https://www.paralympic.org/news/fifty-years-revisiting-tokyo-1964-paralympics
  • https://www.paralympic.org/feature/no-35-first-ever-heritage-flame-lit-stoke-mandeville
  • https://www.paralympic.org/news/big-read-looking-back-ceremonies-1964-and-2012
  • https://dcmsblog.uk/2014/12/a-day-when-the-british-paralympic-association-is-delighted-to-celebrate-silver/