Dick Thompson, multi disciplinary Paralympic athlete, represented Great Britain at 4 Paralympic Games from Rome in 1960 to Heidelberg in 1972, winning 7 gold, 2 silver and 5 bronze medals.

Head and shoulders of a young Dick Thompson

Early life

Born in Tynemouth, Northumberland in December 1930, Dick Thompson broke his back in a climbing accident in 1948, saying in 1967

I suppose I was bitter at first but all that passed long ago. You learn to adjust to an entirely different way of life.

Life as a Paralympic Athlete

There is little in public records about Dick but before becoming a Paralympic athlete he represented the Spinal Injuries Unit at the General Hospital, Hexham, Northumberland, which opened in 1949, at the Stoke Mandeville Games six times between 1950 and 1957. 

From 1958 he represented Duchess of Gloucester House, Isleworth, Middlesex. Opened in November 1949 by the Duchess of Gloucester, it was planned to be a permanent home for war veteran paraplegics who could work but had no other home and those who were unable to live at home without nursing assistance because of their impairment. In 1953 control of the facility passed to the Ministry of Labour and National Service (subsequently known as the Department of Employment and Productivity) and it began admitting both ex-servicemen and civilians injured in industrial accidents. 

Later, he lived in Ponteland, Northumberland, with his wife Diane (nee Gubbin) who was also a Paralympic athlete.


Dick Thompson competing in the shot put at Stoke Mandeville Stadium

In 2012 Caz Walton remembered Dick

When I first started in Paralympic sport, there was an amazing athlete called Dick Thompson, going back a-ways, because he goes back further than I do, which is quite a long time. But, he was just a natural athlete. He looked the sort of a-typical athlete, a Greek god. But he was such a good field eventer, he threw the javelin with amazing technique, he put the shot, he was good at discus. He was good at all three of those events. On top of which, he was a nice guy. I aspired to be like him.

Achievements and awards

Paralympic Games

Margaret Maughan, Dick Thompson and Barbara Anderson returning from Rome 1960 Paralympic Games

Margaret Maughan, Dick Thompson and Barbara Anderson returning from the Rome 1960 Paralympic Games. Image ©IWAS

Dick represented Great Britain at the Rome 1960, Tokyo 1964, Tel Aviv 1968 and Heidelberg 1972 Summer Paralympic Games. Over his career he won seven gold, two silver and five bronze medals in javelin, club throw, shot put, discus throw, pentathlon, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair track events. At the Rome 1960 Games he also competed in swimming. 

Other sporting events

Representing the Spinal Injuries Unit at the General Hospital, Hexham, Northumberland at the 1950, 1951, 1954, 1955, 1956 and 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games, Dick was part of the winning Javelin team six times and was awarded a prize for the best individual throw on three occasions.  

In 1958, having qualified for the first ever British Team and now representing Duchess of Gloucester House, Dick was one of four ‘runners’ who carried a scroll with a message from Dr Guttmann for the opening ceremony of the Stoke Mandeville Games. He carried it on the final leg from Mansion House, London to Stoke Mandeville.

Dick Thompson in his adapted car

Dick Thompson in his car advertising the Stoke Mandeville 1958 Games. Image ©Ian Brittain

Dick Thompson handed the scroll to Richard Thompson at the 1958 Stoke Mandeville Games

Dick handing the scroll to his namesake Richard Thompson, Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health, for the official opening ceremony of the 1958 Games. Image ©Ian Brittain

In 1958 he added a win in the club throw, with a distance of 157ft 5ins, to his tally as well as being a substitute for the wheelchair basketball team. In 1959 he again won the javelin and club throw as well as being part of the winning Class A wheelchair basketball team. 

He is also listed as a competitor in the Games programmes for the First Commonwealth Paraplegic Games in Perth, Australia, in 1962 where he won five golds, two silver and bronze along with the Peter Wilson trophy for the outstanding British performer, the Second Commonwealth Paraplegic Games in 1966 in Jamaica and the Third Commonwealth Paraplegic Games in 1970 in Scotland.

Other awards and recognition

Dicks’ performance at the Rome 1960 Summer Paralympic Games earned him a mention in the Italian encyclopaedia Treccani

In 1965 he was awarded an MBE for services to Paraplegic Sport in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.

Oral history interview about Dick

Interview by Dr Rosemary Hall with Diane West, 6th November 2020

Diane talks about her godfather, Dick Thompson and dad, Alan West, both of whom were involved in the Paralympics. Listen to the interview below.


  • Brittain, I.S. (2012) From Stoke Mandeville to Stratford: A History of the Summer Paralympic Games. Champaign, Illinois: Common Ground Publishing