A SPECIAL ceremony has taken place in Australia to commemorate Britain’s first Olympic champion, Launceston Elliot, the Scot who won gold and silver in the inaugural Olympic Games in Athens.
The weightlifter – who was born in Tasmania to a family that was an established part of the Scottish aristocracy – represented Britain at two Olympic Games, Athens in 1896 and Paris in 1900.
In 1896, Elliot won gold in the one-hand lift event after securing silver in the two-hand lift. He competed again four years later in Paris where weightlifting wasn’t part of the programme, but Elliot competed in the discus and finished 11th.
On Sunday, a delegation led by British Olympic Association (BOA) chairman Lord Colin Moynihan paid respects to Elliot and his achievements in a special ceremony which took place at Fawkner Cemetery in Melbourne.
A commemorative headstone was unveiled at the previously unmarked grave and Elliot’s granddaughter Anne Elliot Smith and his great grandson Ian Smith were both present.
Lord Moynihan was joined by Hugh Robertson, Minister for Sport and the Olympics, Australian Minister for Sport Senator Kate Lundy and British High Commissioner Paul Madden to acknowledge Elliot’s achievements and his unique place in Olympic history. Also in attendance was Australian Olympic Committee Secretary General Craig Phillips.
Lord Moynihan led the tributes, saying: “As our first Olympic champion from the inaugural modern Olympic Games, Launceston Elliot will always hold a very special place in British Olympic history and it is appropriate that we are recognising this remarkable Olympian’s unique achievement.
“We were honoured to be joined by Launceston’s granddaughter and great grandson, and we greatly appreciate the support and friendship of our counterparts in the Australian Olympic Committee and the wider Olympic family.”
In the Athens games, Elliot displayed his talent as an all-round sportsman, competing in four events: athletics, rope climbing, wrestling and weightlifting. He was eliminated in the preliminary rounds of the 100 metres sprint and the heavyweight Greco-Roman wrestling. He finished fifth in the rope climbing.
After the Olympics, he took part in weightlifting at both amateur and professional events. He also entered competitions for body building, wrestling, Scottish sports, strongman contests and as a showman.
His Olympic achievements were recognised when he was awarded a place in the Scottish Sport hall of fame as one of the 50 inaugural inductees in 2002, alongside the likes of golfer Young Tom Morris, boxer Benny Lynch, athlete Allan Wells and football greats Sir Matt Busby, Bill Shankly and Kenny Dalglish. Pictures of Elliot feature in the sport section of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.
Born in 1874, Elliot moved to Australia in the 1920s and became a farmer. He was involved in his local community and took great interest in the Australian weightlifting scene right up until he died on 8 August 1930.