21 July 2022

Masham reunited with Rome 1960 Paralympic gold medal

One of Great Britain’s first ever Paralympic medallists was presented with an exact replica of the gold medal she lost during the inaugural Rome 1960 Games at a special ceremony hosted by the British Paralympic Association.

Susan, Baroness Masham of Ilton, was a pioneering athlete winning three medals at the first ever Paralympic Games but lost the gold medal she won in the breaststroke when she went out for dinner to celebrate her success near the Trevi Fountain in the Italian capital.

Upon recently being made aware of the story BPA Chair, Nick Webborn, intervened to commission an exact replica for a delighted Sue Masham, who also competed at Tokyo 1964 and Tel Aviv 1968 winning medals in table tennis and swimming.

A close up of the Rome 1960 medal

She said: “I would like to thank everyone involved and it’s really wonderful to have my medal again.

“What happened was we went out for dinner at a restaurant by the Trevi Fountain and I showed someone the medal and I think I put it down the side of my chair and when I got back it had disappeared.

“This is really a big, big thank you - I never thought I would see it again!”

Sue got involved in disability sport after meeting the founder of the Paralympic movement. Ludwig Guttmann, at Stoke Mandeville hospital in 1958 after sustaining a spinal injury in a horse-riding accident.

She recalled: “I met Ludwig Guttmann while I was recovering from my injury at Stoke Mandeville – he started the sports movement for the paralysed and he said if people can compete in sport then they can compete in everyday life.

“It’s amazing how the Paralympic movement has changed – it’s marvellous to think how it has spread around the world. It’s made all the difference to people’s lives.”

Reunited: the moment Baroness Masham received the replica medal

Nick Webborn said: “There is no better example of our vision: “to inspire a better world for disabled people” than you.

“Today we recognise someone who has done more than most around social impact and demonstrating how our former Paralympians have such powerful stories to tell. It’s just wonderful to have you here and to present you with the medal you lost in Rome.”

“To explain how this came about, I received an email about you losing your medal after someone had seen your story in a BBC documentary and I also remembered you visiting me when I was injured and lying in Stoke Mandeville Hospital in 1981.

“It was amazing to think about how you continued to support people who were newly injured and it seemed only right that we should, for that kindness you gave me and so many others, see if we could replace your medal.

“I contacted Vicky Hope-Walker at the National Paralympic Heritage Trust based at Stoke Mandeville and in their collection, they had one of your silver medals from swimming plus another gold medal from another sport to see how we could come up with the replica.”

The medal was recreated by a goldsmiths, Ursae Ltd in a complex process involving scanning in a Rome 1960 silver medal, capturing the textures of the original, which was 3D printed, then cast into silver and plated with a generous helping of gold to produce an exact likeness. Ben Ryan who made the replica medal is also the brother of ParalympicsGB’s Tokyo 2020 gold medal winning Wheelchair Rugby player Chris Ryan.

Lady Masham became Baroness Masham of Ilton in 1970 and is the longest serving female peer in the House of Lords where she remains a passionate campaigner on disability rights. In 1974 she founded the Spinal Injuries Association (SIA) and remains President to this day.

Sue is one of the first 1,764 Paralympians who has represented Great Britain between 1960 and 2022 and we were delighted to be able to celebrate and give thanks for her achievements by presenting her with her lost medal.

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