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IWF committee member Keith Morgan is honoured with OBE

The lifelong efforts of a coach who helped women’s weightlifting into the sporting mainstream in Britain 40 years ago have been recognised in the nation’s New Year Honours List.

Keith Morgan has been awarded an OBE, a chivalric honour established more than 100 years ago, for “services to sport”. He is a member of the IWF’s Coaching and Research Committee.

Morgan has worked with 50 Olympians in a range of sports as a strength and conditioning specialist. He has been involved in weightlifting for more than 50 years as an athlete, coach, talent recruiter, anti-doping tester and competition organiser. He was also technical operations manager at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Among the many elite weightlifters he has coached is Forrester Osei, chair of the IWF Athletes Commission. Osei spent much of his childhood in Ghana before returning to London, where he was born and where he played American football for eight years before switching sports.

Morgan, a lifelong physical training instructor in the police force, is famed for encouraging athletes away from their chosen sport and into weightlifting. “Nowadays they call it talent transfer. Back then I called it nicking people from other sports,” he said.

Keith Morgan with Jo Calvino

Others who switched included Myrtle Augee from shot put and Tokyo Olympian Emily Godley from pole vault, the last two British women to win senior European titles, 26 years apart. Morgan also helped Jo Calvino, who was competition manager for weightlifting at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, to switch from diving.

Morgan has coached lifters from nine countries including the United States, Germany, Jamaica, Cyprus, and Ghana. In other sports he has worked with the Olympic diving and decathlon gold medallists Tom Daley and Daley Thompson, javelin world record holder Steve Backley, England rugby player Kyle Sinckler and heavyweight boxing world champion David Haye.

“I’ve worked in about 25 sports and been to 20 World Championships,” said Morgan. “It’s been very rewarding to work with so many athletes and see them do well. I’ve had a very interesting time in sport, and weightlifting has always been right at the heart of it.”

Keith Morgan with a group of athletes, including Forrester Osei (far right)

In 1980 Morgan was selected for the Olympic Games in bobsleigh. He was the first non-military athlete ever to make the Olympic team, but he suffered an injury before the Games and had to stand down. An injury also brought an early end to his weightlifting career, in which he won medals in international police competitions.

Morgan, a coach for 50 years, worked with women weightlifters before they were officially welcomed into the sport by the IWF in the 1980s. “I organised the first British Championship for women in 1986, when we had about 60 female lifters,” Morgan said. “It was very hard back then because so many people didn’t want women in weightlifting. It helped that we had some high-profile throwers from track and field, like Myrtle Augee and Judy Oakes.”

Osei lifted at Tokyo 2020 and is trying to qualify for Paris 2024. He said, “I got where I am in weightlifting because of Keith, who has been an inspiration and a great motivator. He can be hard on his athletes but that’s what you have to be.

“When I first asked him to coach me because I wanted to be a weightlifter, he said, ‘You won’t be able to do it.’ So I trained very hard, made some huge squats and then he said, ‘OK, we’ll give it a go.’

“He trained me at the London Weightlifting Club, which is one of the best in the country thanks to his own efforts over the years. I’ve seen him bring through so many athletes in so many sports from so many countries. Keith really deserves this award and the recognition that comes with it.”

Morgan will be 73 when he receives the award later this year, probably at Buckingham Palace.

Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said of the award winners announced recently, The New Year Honours List recognises the exceptional achievements of people across the country and those who have shown the highest commitment to selflessness and compassion. To all honourees, you are the pride of this country and an inspiration to us all.”

By Brian Oliver