Grantham Journal Caricature: Geoff Capes - ‘Why I hated Thatcher’
Once a familar face from 1980s television sports programmes such as World’s Strongest Man (which he won twice), Geoff Capes still keeps himself physically active.
Born in Holbeach, now living in Stoke Rochford, the 68-year-old former shot putter and three-time Olympian is heavily involved in athletics training and coaching.
The seventh of nine children, he runs sessions in throwing at Stoke Rochford, Rhinos Gym in Stamford and the Lincs Throwing Academy in Holbeach. In addition, Geoff still referees strongman competitions.
Sport remains a family affair. His son Lewis, an England coach at athletics, runs a rugby academy in Peterborough. A grandson is also the country’s number one for his age group at discus and number two at shot. Daughter Emma was a school-age shot put champion.
Perhaps surprisingly for someone so strong, Geoff is a fancier of one of our smaller but popular pets...the budgerigar.
Asked why he has been breeding birds for 45 years, becoming a world champion, Geoff says: “Why not?” though his father bred them too, with Geoff also caring for sick animals as a youngster. “I do it as a hobby but it’s also very competitive. I like to win. I don’t like to fail.”
Geoff followed another family tradition, being a policeman, an issue that brings us to Grantham’s most famous daughter, Margaret Thatcher – someone he admits is “one of my most hated people.”
The sportsman blames the Iron Lady for ruining his career in the police and athletics.
The time was 1980, Geoff was due to be part of the British team going to the Moscow Olympics. But because the former Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, Mrs Thatcher and other world leaders demanded a boycott. Geoff went anyway and finished fifth, having been the pre-Games favourite for gold.
“I had to end my career because I was determined to go. The government was still trading with Russia, with butter and stuff. I was determined to stick up for myself. I’m not happy with her. She was a formidable woman. I was a formidable man.”
It meant Geoff having to turn professional, taking part in the strong man competitions and Highland Games he became even more famous for.
Now, as Britain again faces a stand-off with Russia, again with a woman Conservative prime minister, Geoff says he has “mixed emotions,” noting how many people made sacrifices for their sport, himself included.
He said: “I have always said sport should be a bridge. It’s a great leveller in the world. Unfortunately it’s an issue where politicians step in.”
However, he doubts there would be a boycott of the Russian Football World Cup in June as there’s too much money involved.
“It’s all inter-connected, there’s billions involved. I love football. I would love to see our team do well. I would sit on the fence if there was a vote whether to go or not. It affected me at a time of life when I was at my best. I retired straight after. I felt so strongly about not been used as a political pawn. If some guys don’t go, they may not get the chance to play World Cup football again.”
If this all sounds like strong words, Geoff is unapologetic, especially as history may end up repeating itself.
He concluded: “When you are an elder statesman of sport, you should have your say because you have been there and done it. It’s a shame it’s happening this way.”