“A truly amazing experience” is how a Clonmel man described being part of the Olympic Torch Relay last weekend.
A crowd of 20,000 lined the streets when Frank Rothwell carried the torch through the streets of Halifax in Yorkshire, 40 years after he represented Ireland in weightlifting at the 1972 Munich Games.
“There was a big turnout from the Halifax Irish Centre to support me. All my family and friends were there and it’s something I’ll never forget”, he said.
Frank has lived in Hebden Bridge in Yorkshire for more than 50 years and was selected as one of the 8,000 torch bearers to carry the flame on its 70-day journey around the United Kingdom before the Games begin at the end of July.
He was nominated by Michael Snee, chairman of the Halifax and District Irish Society after the Federation of Irish Societies contacted their members inviting nominations. Mr. Snee said that Frank had done a lot of work in the community, and in particular for young people, by introducing them to weightlifting.
Frank lived in 12 Albert Street, Clonmel until he went to England at the age of 19. His wife Angela (nee Kiely) is originally from Oliver Plunket Terrace in Clonmel.
Now 75, he represented his country in international competition from 1963 until his retirement nine years later. The highlight of his career came in 1972 when he competed at the Olympics in Munich. Four years previously he missed out on the Mexico City Games when he was just 22 pounds short of the required weight when winning the Irish championship.
He won All-Ireland Senior Weightlifting titles at several weights including middleweight, light heavy and mid heavy. He set the grand total of 43 Irish Senior records and also won 12 British divisional titles in the course of his career.
Before competing at the Munich Olympics he became the only Irish weightlifter to lift a total of 1,000 pounds, a feat that he managed at an exhibition in the Collins Hall in his home town of Clonmel during a visit on holidays.
He had started lifting weights when he was 15 and as well as the Olympics competed in British, European and World Championships. A true amateur, he worked in an engineering factory before coming home to lift weights and train in his kitchen each evening.
He won Cidona Awards for weightlifting in 1964, ‘65, ‘67 and ‘70, and in 2007 received the Knocknagow Award as the Sportsperson of the Past from the Tipperary United Sports Panel.
Frank set up a weightlifting club at Mytholmroyd Community Centre in Yorkshire, which is now the centre of all northern weightlifting. He’s still heavily involved in local weightlifting.
He also runs a YouTube channel, with more than 1,000 subscribers, and a website promoting weightlifting at http://my-web.tiscali.co.uk/frankweights.