Cardiff Olympian Paulo Radmilovic

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I missed my blog spot last week because I was glued to the Olympics. I can’t seem to leave the room for fear of missing yet another Gold medal being won. While watching the Brownlee brothers from Yorkshire winning Gold and Bronze in the triathlon I started to think about how sporting ability seems to run in families, which led me to thinking about whether sporting ability is inherited or nutured.


It seems that for Paulo Radmilovic it was a case of nuture over nature.


Paulo won four gold medals in men’s water polo and swimming events at the 1908 games in London, 1912 in Stockholm and 1920 in Antwerp. Yet his father Antonio was a publican who ran the Glastonbury Arms Pub. At the time of the 1901 census Paulo was aged 14 and living with his family at 25 Bute Street.


According to the 1901 census it shows that Antonio was born in 1847 in Ragusa, Austria but was already a naturalised British Subject, whilst his wife Cattarina was born in 1862 in Cardiff. Each of their four children were born in Cardiff; John, James, Paulo and Mary. Their house must have been a large one since they also had space for three Austrian sailors to lodge with them.


It’s interesting to examine the other occupants of Bute Street at that time; with coffee house keepers, butchers and solicitors from around the world all living in one street. It must have been a lively and thriving community indeed.


In contrast the information on the internet suggests that Paulo was of Croatian and Irish descent. I know the enumerators and the census records are often not quite right in their information and that my geography skills are not that impressive but these countries seem just a little too far apart so something must be amiss somewhere.


After his success in the 1908 Olympic Games Paulo was poached by the English in an elaborate PR stunt! He was offered a pub of his own to run in Weston-super-Mare on the condition that he told everyone how lovely it was to swim in the sea there.


I suspect that this was a no-brainer since Paulo reputedly learned to swim in Cardiff docks!


By the time of the 1911 census Paulo and Margaret - his wife of two years - were running the Globe Hotel in Weston-super-Mare where he stayed until his death in 1968. He was still swimming 400m a day at the age of 78.


I’d like to have the chance to work on other Welsh Olympian’s family history. I know Colin Jackson has already taken part in BBC 1’s '“Who Do You Think You Are' but perhaps Tanni Grey-Thompson or Lynn Davies or Dai Greene could ask their agents to get in touch! 

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