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The mystery of the greatest Welsh Olympian’s missing gold medals

03 Aug 2021 4 minute read
Paolo Radmilovic

Paulo Radmilovic is Wales’ greatest ever Olympian.

The Cardiff-born swimmer and water polo player who won four gold medals is rightly enshrined in Welsh sporting history.

Now as an exhibition celebrating Wales’ achievements at the Olympics opens at St Fagans National Museum of History, a renewed search has begun for the Olympians’ missing medals.

Mystery over the whereabouts of those gold medals has lingered ever since Paulo’s death in 1968 in Weston-super-Mare, where he lived for many years. However, the search has continued in recent times to try and locate these prized items.

Paulo Radmilovic (Credit: Cardiff Central Library Local Studies Section)

Swim Wales along with the Welsh Sports Hall of Fame are behind efforts to find the Olympian’s medals.

“We are trying to cast the net as wide as we can ahead of our 125 year anniversary next year,” said Fergus Feeney, the CEO of Swim wales. “Our hunch is they are still in the West County.

“I am also talking to my old colleagues at The Royal Mint about getting a message out to their network of coin and medal dealers. That’s where we are currently.”

A world class water polo player and swimmer Radmilovic had an Olympic career that spanned 20 years, making his first appearance at the London games of 1908 and his final appearance at the 1928 games in Amsterdam, at the age of 42.

A plaque bearing his name was unveiled at the Cardiff International Swimming Pool at Cardiff Sports Village in 2008, a hundred years after the man nicknamed ‘Raddy’ claimed his first gold medals at the 1908 Olympic Games.

The plaque was unveiled by Welsh Sports Hall of Fame trustee Rob Cole, who has never given up hope of finding the medals.

Paulo Radmilovic pictured in 1909 (Creative Commons)

Speaking to WalesOnline at the time he said: “We have been trying to locate his medals and bring them back to Wales and put them on display here. Four Olympic medals was a unique achievement.

“What I have gleaned was there was a family feud and that they got sold. So I am now chasing around auction houses trying to find out where they potentially are.

“The difficulty is that these medals are not personalised in any way. They are marked with the place and year the games took place.

Worth thousands

The 1908 medals feature two female figures crowning a victorious athlete with laurel leaves.

Rob has spoken to Radmilovic’s surviving family in Wales and to the Amateur Swimming Association in his hunt but so far to no avail.

The medals could attract bids of thousands of pounds if they were sold at auction.

Cardiff-born sports auctioneer Richard Madley has traced records back for the last 30 years and can find nothing to suggest that they have come onto the market in that time.

“Shark man ‘Paulo’, Ely river C.1910” by Cardiff Waterways Map is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

But they could have been sold before that or might be held privately.

“There is the possibility they could still be around the area,” said the auctioneer. “They are not the sort of things you would throw away, but they are the sort of things that in hard times could have been cashed in for gold.

“They could be lying in a pawnbrokers or jewellers, they could have been taken in by a money lender. The possibilities are endless as to where they could have gone.

“They are out there and I would love to get my hands on them.”

If you have information regarding the medals contact the Welsh Sports Hall of Fame HERE

Read the forgotten story of Wales’ greatest ever Olympian Paulo Radmilovic HERE

* The exhibition Wales is…Olympics runs at St Fagans National Museum of History until October 2, 2021. Admission is free.

A partnership exhibition between Amgueddfa Cymru-Museum Wales and Welsh Sports Hall of Fame, visitors can discover iconic objects from Wales’ leading Olympians and Paralympians in this new display to mark the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics.

Explore the stories of some of Wales’ greatest sportspeople including Paulo Radmilovic, Wales’ most successful Olympian, Irene Steer, the first Welsh woman to win a gold medal, and Lynn Davies who won gold in the long jump at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

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