John Goodbody, for 21 years the sports news correspondent of The Times, is to take early retirement, it was announced this afternoon.
Goodbody, who is surely the only SJA member, and certainly the oldest, ever to have swum the English Channel, is the first member of his newspaper’s sports desk to leave as part of the 30 job cuts across the paper announced earlier this month, as the News International titles at Wapping conduct an overall 100-job, Â£30 million costs-savings exercise.
Goodbody won the SJA sports story of the year in 2002, having been named Sports Reporter of the Year in the 2001 British Press Awards. He is renowned for his Olympic Games and drugs testing coverage. He was also highly commended as sports reporter of the year on three other occasions.
He took a staff position at The Times in 1986, effectively selling the idea of the first “sports news” position in Fleet Street to the then Editor, Charlie Wilson, after a career which had seen him work at various titles, including the old Evening News and then the Mail on Sunday, often covering athletics, swimming, rowing and weightlifting, with a particularly strong inside knowledge of judo.
Goodbody by name… In his younger years, Goodbody was a keen judo fighter, to British national squad level, and practised at the prestigious London Budokwai club in the 1960s, when the sport was first introduced at the Olympics, where one of his “sparring partners” was Charles Palmer, who went on to become an influential chairman of the British Olympic Association.
It was in his 40s that Goodbody took up long-distance, openwater swimming seriously, typically determined to fulfil his ambition in 1991, covering the 22-odd miles from England to France in 15hr 40min when aged 48 (and ensuring himself another front-page story).
Today, in a message to his sports desk colleagues, Goodbody said:
“After 21 years on The Times, I am taking early (only by 13 months) retirement. I just would like to thank you for all your support and companionship over the years. It has been a treat working with you all.”
He told sportsjournalists.co.uk: “Plans are already afoot for me to cover the Olympics in Beijing and London, which will be my 12th successive Summer Olympics and 50 years in journalism. In the meantime, I am completing an audio book for Naxos on the Olympics and am open for freelance business.”
Goodbody can be contacted directly at 48, Rowan Road, Brook Green, London W6 7DU; T: 020 7371 1733; M: 078 8950 6914.