Obituary: The Olympic spirit of Heather Goodman will never be forgotten

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Heather Bonman

Heather Meakin was born on March 30, 1935 in Birkenhead. She was evacuated with her sister Janet at the start of World War II to the relative safety of the foothills of Snowdonia.

After the war, her parents moved to Kendal. After leaving school, Heather started working at The Provincial Insurance on Stramongate. Bored of being a teenager, she attended an open day at Brathay Hall to try out sports. It was here that she fell in love with whitewater slalom.

She met Eric Tottie and Lesley Beecham and in 1952 they established the Lakeland Canoe Club at Fellfoot in Newby Bridge.

In the late 1950s and well into the 1960s, Heather competed nationally in her first canoe competition in 1953, quickly moving up the scoreboard to secure a fourth position in her second outing which was contested on an equal footing with the men.

It was there that she met her future husband Bill Goodman, of the Manchester Canoe Club. Bill was also a top national competitor and represented Great Britain at the first Canoe World Championships held in Geneva in 1949. They settled in Warwickshire and started a family.

Heather has competed internationally, traveling to places like Czechoslovakia and East Germany. Nationally, Heather became British canoe champion by winning the title ten times. Internationally, it was difficult for British competitors to compete with better-funded countries; but in 1970 Heather won a bronze medal at the World Championships in East Germany.

This resulted in his selection for the British team at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, the first time whitewater slalom canoeing appeared in the Olympics. Heather performed very well against the top-funded nations, but a poor performance on the day left her trailing in the final positions, which left her disappointed.

Heather Bonman

After the Olympics, Heather retired from racing and started sailing for leisure. Bill and Heather have built their own yacht in their backyard in Warwickshire, probably as far from the sea as possible. In order to enjoy the yacht, they moved to North Devon where they explored the Bristol Channel and ended up in the Western Isles of Scotland. Heather has become a competent navigator and a deft hand with the sextant.

In 1992 they moved to Kendal to be closer to Heather’s family replacing the boat with a campervan to better explore Scotland. Heather started running with the Kendal Amateur Athletics Club. Competing in cross country and road races, posting a final time at the 2003 National Veterans 10 Mile Road Championship which placed her second in the national standings, Heather has competed in the London Marathon four times. This culminated in 2005 with an over 60 gold medal at the remarkable age of 70 at the International Mountain Runners World Championship in Grasmere.

Recently, Heather’s health deteriorated, but she was still able to travel across town to visit her family. She will always be remembered for her engaging conversation, dogged determination and indomitable Olympic spirit. Heather passed away surrounded by friends and family and will be buried with her father Vincent and sister Janet.

Funeral services will be held at the Chapel, Parkside Road Cemetery, Kendal at 11.30am on October 21.

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