*1927 - +2002
It is with great
regret and the deepest sadness
that British Gymnastics mourns
the loss one of its greatest gymnasts, Nik Stuart,
who passed away
in his sleep on Monday morning,
24th June, 2002 at 11.00
Wray, "Nik" Stuart was born in Thirsk in 1927, the
second youngest of twelve brothers and sisters. Raised in the
Yorkshire dales he was happiest in the wilds running, swimming and
climbing the nearby Whitestone cliffs with his brothers. At the
little country school, Nik showed little interest in academic
subjects but soon showed great natural
ability in many different sports.
He left school at 14 to start an
apprenticeship with a local bricklayer but 18 months was later
and in 1946 joined the Royal parachute regiment. He
represented the regiment in boxing for over a year before retiring
Nik transferred to the Physical Training Corps in 1948. In
this unit he could make full use of his talent
for sport, and he decided to make the Army his career.High diving next aroused his interest andin 1949
Nik had the distinction of beating Peter Elliott who later represented Britain in the Olympic Games, a
distinction denied Nik due to his posting to Malaya.
While serving in Singapore in 1952 Nik set up a pole vault record of 12 feet and a half inch in the
Malaysian A. A. A. championships, a remarkable performance considering his previous lack of training
for the event.
The following year Nik won the Malaysian high diving title with a top dive of one and the half somersault
with full twist. During his posting Nik became friendly with a local circus troupe and learned many acrobatic
and circus skills which kindled his interest in gymnastics. So much so that when Nik returned to Britain
in 1953 he was determined to concentrate on gymnastics and within three years became British Champion,
a title he was to hold for 9 years.
During this period the Army became synonymous with gymnastic excellence and dominated men’s
competition for over a decade. Under Nik's leadership the PT School developed a team of dedicated
enthusiasts bound together by a common purpose - friendship and camaraderie.
During his competitive years Nik had many outstanding successes.
In the European Gymnastics Championships in Frankfurt in 1955, Nik delighted the crowd by doing a one
arm press into one arm handstand; this was the first time this difficult movement had been performed
in public by any gymnast.
In 1957 in Paris, Nik won a silver medal being only 0.35 marks behind 1956 Olympic gold medallist
William Thoressen of Sweden
In the European Championships in Copenhagen in 1959 he gained fifth overall place behind the winner
Yuri Titov of Russia ,who later went on to become world champion. Nik made many friends in Russia and
is still loved and respected world wide.
Nik's career in the Army ended in 1964 when the BAGA asked him to become the first National coach
of the Association, a position he willingly accepted though it cost him a commission.
Many, many gymnasts were coached by Nik, at all levels of achievement during his years with the BAGA
and were influenced by his example.
Nik was a qualified coach in ten different sports and helped countless young athletes and gymnasts over
the years. He was awarded the MBE for his services to sport and on retiring from the BAGA, he continued
to be very active in the sport, to which he had dedicated his life.
At the age of 69 Nik finally decided it was really time to retire, but not before breaking a few more records.
At the age of 65 he appeared in "You Bet," winning the challenge to knock down skittles by giant swinging
round a high bar and kicking footballs. Later, aged 67, he appeared on the Johnny Vaughan show performing
a one arm handstand and a backsomersault.
With more physical achievement behind him than a whole team of lesser mortals, Nik might have been
expected to be slowing down after his 70th Birthday, but gymnastics continued to play a major part in Nik's
life as he continued to work out daily on his home gymnastics equipment, also coaching whenever possible
at local gym classes until, during the last two years of his life, he began to lose the battle against the
progress of Alzheimer’s Disease.
This short tribute can only scratch the surface of a life so rich in achievement, experience and sharing.
Worldwide, people who knew him will be saddened at the loss of one of Gymnastics’ most colourful sports
pioneers and will remember with appreciation, the inspiration and help given so unstintingly by this
Chief Executive – British Gymnastics
|> Nik Stuart