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Swimming champ to sell sports souvenirs

The notorious “lucky towel” of an Olympic and Commonwealth Games swimming legend is among the Team GB memorabilia going under the hammer.

Susan Atkinson standing next to the collection, holding Anita Longbrough's first tracksuit jacket
Susan Atkinson standing next to the collection, holding Anita Longbrough's first tracksuit jacket

Over five pieces of swimming, Olympic and Commonwealth games memorabilia are set to go on auction on Friday, June 2 at David Duggleby Auctioneers on Vine Street, Scarborough.

Sporting star Anita Lonsbrough decided to auction off her past equipment, including the towel, when she was sorting out her collection of sports items with her husband, the Wolverhampton-born Commonwealth Games gold-medallist cyclist, Hugh Porter.

Anita, former Commonwealth and Olympic gold medallist, 81, said: “I and Hugh were having a bit of a sort out when we came across these nice bits of old memorabilia.

“We decided that if anyone was interested in them then we would auction them off, not necessarily because they are mine but because they are part of the Olympic and Commonwealth history.”

One item in the auction will be Anita’s very first tracksuit top, which was a present from her parents when she first started competitive swimming, scattered with badges of the clubs and competitions in which she took part – including the English School Swimming Association whose championship she won in 1957.

Anita continued: “I thought that there was an awful lot of history in these items and hopefully there is someone out there who will have a bit of interest in it.

“I’m not asking a fortune for these items, I just really hope they go to someone interested in this sort of thing.”

Also going under the hammer at the auction will be a “primitive” team-issue swimming costume, which Anita shot to prominence when she wore it in the 1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games at Cardiff.

She continued: “I won my first gold medal in that swimsuit in 1958. There are collectors of these sorts of things, but it’s just getting the right collectors to come forward really.

“We just thought that rather than them being stuck in a drawer somewhere, it might be nice for someone who has a passion and interest in this part of history to own it.”

Also in the auction are two bathrobes, one of which has Anita’s last name misspelt as “Lonsborough”, a full tracksuit, two programmes, one is signed by Anita herself, and her lucky swimming towel.

Anita said: “I’m also auctioning my lucky towel that you see in all the pictures. These days they are specially made smaller towels to wipe yourself down with, but this was just an ordinary towel that my mother bought me.

“When we sort more stuff out around the house we may find more memorabilia that we will continue to auction.”

Graham Paddison, auctioneer at David Duggleby Auctioneer and Valuers, said: “We do also have a second robe that Anita used at the 1962 Commonwealth Games, where she won three gold medals.”

The catalogue for the Decorative Art and Collectors Auction is available at davidduggleby.com

Viewing will be taking place at the Vine Street saleroom before the auction at 11am.

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