Olympic gymnast Frank Turner remembered

Frank Turner in action

Frank Turner in action

First published in News St Albans & Harpenden Review: Photograph of the Author by

A former Olympic gymnast, soldier and stuntman, whose remarkable career earned him international recognition, has died.

Frank Turner, 87, who died at his home in The Crescent, Bricket Wood, was a rare sporting talent; a man who also excelled at boxing, table tennis, diving and football.

It was at the sport of gymnastics, however, that he would earn international honours, competing at three Olympics games (London 1948, Helsinki 1952 and Melbourne 1956) and winning the British championships four times.

He began his working career as a bank clerk in 1939 but was conscripted into the Royal Artillery two years later. During active service in North Africa and Sicily he was wounded twice but remained determined to master his chosen art.

Son Keith recalled his father’s first Olympic experience at the London “austerity” games of 1948. “It was very different in those days,” he explained. “He was still working at the bank but his manager didn’t want him to go. He also had to buy all of his own kit when he got there. It was so different than it is today.”

Mr Turner, who later worked as a stunt double for film stars Michael Caine and Norman Wisdom, never won an Olympic medal but was widely regarded as one of the world’s finest exponents of the rings apparatus.

“He was feared by the Russians on the rings,” explained his other son, Colin. “But in those days you had to compete on all the apparatus. You couldn’t just specialise on one. If he was competing today he would be a real superstar. But he never did it for money or fame; he competed just for the love of it.”

After coaching the national team at the 1960 Rome Olympics he became an international judge three years later. When not officiating at tournaments around the world he worked as a sports science lecturer at Watford College of Technology and Dulwich college.

For his success, however, Mr Turner remained an immensely modest man, so much so that, in later life, he used some of his many cups and trophies as paint pots.

“You’d go into the garage and there’d be a genuine silver cup full with a paint brush sticking out of it,” remembered Colin. “He never kept any of his trophies or medals on display. He also had a great sense of humour right up until the end of his life.”

In his later years Mr Turner devoted much of his time to the care of two retired race horses at a field in Aldenham, where his ashes will be scattered next week.

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