Pole vault champion receives OBE

A former Commonwealth pole vault champion who trained using old mattresses from refitted ships in Belfast has been awarded the OBE.

Mike Bull, 65, attracted audiences of hundreds of shipyard workers on their lunch break as a student in the 1960s, practising in a cavernous shed under the shadow of the city’s famous cranes.

Mr Bull has been honoured for services to sport and charity.

He said: “People were eating their packed lunches with flat caps on their laps and cheering. Every session was like a major competition for me.”

The retired athlete from Bangor, Co Down, competed in pole vault and decathlon. He won a record 69 British international caps, gold medals at the 1970 and 1974 Commonwealth Games and silver medals at the 1966 and 1974 Commonwealths.

Mr Bull used to train while he was still a student in Belfast under the imposing Simpson and Goliath cranes in Harland and Wolff shipyard. “We located mattresses from the ships that were being refitted, it was a good soft landing,” he said. He overcame the lack of facilities to reach the world’s top 10.

He is now a coach with the International Association of Athletics Federations and is honorary vice-president of the Northern Ireland Commonwealth Games Council. He said he was honoured to receive the award and dedicated it to his partner Lynda Fielden and father John Bull

In 1986 he co-founded the sports charity Sparks Northern Ireland and raised money for children suffering from crippling illnesses.

BBC broadcaster Wendy Austin, who presents the Talkback current affairs programme, and actor Kenneth Branagh were among other people from Northern Ireland honoured in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

Ms Austin said: “I was delighted when I received the letter – it’s really great to be rewarded and recognised for doing what I consider to be just about the best job. And it’s been a real privilege to be involved over so many years with such wonderful charities. Now we’re all looking forward to our special day in London.”





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