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Fifty years for Wolverhampton's golden couple

Wolverhampton | News | Published:

Hugh Porter and Anita Lonsbrough landed numerous gold medals as they reached the top of their respective sports of cycling and swimming.

And now the pair have added another golden moment to the list as they celebrate 50 years of marriage.

Both bona fide members of Wolverhampton's sporting royalty, their careers need little introduction.

Hugh and Anita Porter's wedding in Huddersfield attended by massive crowds due to Anita's sporting achievements

Hugh rose to the very top of the cycling world, landing four World Championship gold medals between 1968 and 1973, as well as a Commonwealth Games gold in 1966.

Wife Anita's glittering career in the pool was crowned by a gold medal at the 1960 Rome Olympics in the 200m breaststroke at the tender age of 19.

It was during a late night flight to Tokyo for the Olympics four years later that the couple, who live in Tettenhall, first laid eyes on each other.

Hugh and Anita Porter on their wedding day, June 17,1965, at their reception in Huddersfield Town Hall

"I couldn't sleep so I walked to the front of the plane to have a chat with some of the modern pentathlon boys who I knew from Rome," said Anita, 73.

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"I got talking to Hugh and after a while he asked me to join him for breakfast. We met up at the opening ceremony but it was difficult keeping in touch during the games because the cyclists were based miles outside of Tokyo.

"But I managed to watch him compete and the relationship grew from there."

Anita said they got to know each other properly over an intimate dinner at a restaurant in Tokyo.

It was the start of a whirlwind romance that has stood the test of time. The couple continued to meet up at weekends once they returned to England - no easy feat considering their respective busy sporting schedules.

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Anita, who lived in Huddersfield at the time, was already a household name, having landed the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award in 1962 and 1963.

Meanwhile Hugh was at the start of a career that would see him become one of the greatest pursuit cyclists of all time.

"We both led incredibly busy lives, particularly with me having to go to Europe to compete, and it was difficult at times," said Hugh, 75, who grew up in Parkfields.

"We always made time for each other. You could say she ticked all the boxes for me. I knew from an early stage that Anita was the woman I wanted to marry."

The couple were engaged in March 1965 and got married at St Peter's Church, Huddersfield, on June 17 of the same year, with a glittering reception held at the Town Hall. The wedding was, as Anita recalls, something of a major event for the South Yorkshire town.

"They had to close the streets around the church because so many people turned up," she said.

"Even the Pathé news cameras were there! I remember not being nervous at all. We had a nice sunny day and everything went well."

Hugh and Anita made their first home in a 'grotty flat' in Compton after she had moved down to Wolverhampton to work as a teacher at the Regis School.

They bought their first house in Pattingham before moving to the house in Tettenhall where they still live to this day.

After she retired from the pool Anita went on to forge a career as a journalist, working for The Telegraph and BBC radio.

Hugh became a commentator for the BBC in 1984 and covered cycling at eight Olympic games. He is still going strong to this day - with Bradley Wiggins personally requesting him for microphone duties for his successful 'One-hour' world record attempt earlier this month.

"I think the fact that we both put so much into our work has helped us stay strong," said Hugh.

"We both have similar mindsets. We are very competitive and respect that in each other. Of course we've had our arguments, but we've never gone to bed without making up. We've always managed to stay friends."

The pair, who are both MBE recipients, plan to celebrate their anniversary with a cruise around the Mediterranean, although their departure has been delayed while Hugh commentates on the Women's Tour of Britain for ITV4.

"I suppose you could say it's typical that on the day of our anniversary we'll be driving down south for work," chuckled Hugh.

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