Here’s a little background about my former coach and mentor, Eddie Soens
Soens: The surname is probably Flemish in origin.
Eddie was one of four surviving sons of James Soens born in 1872.
Eddie married Mima in 1936.
He is best remembered as Britain’s Greatest Cycling Coach.
I first met Eddie after I arrived in Britain in the early spring of 1975. Before leaving Canada I ordered my first track bicycle from the famous Liverpool frame builder
On my first visit to Harry’s shop to see my new blue track frame I met Eddie. Eddie would visit Harry’s shop twice per week for a cup of tea and a chat. Eddie saw me and spoke to me for the very first time. In his best attempt at polite greetings asked, “What’s your bloody name lad?”
In a very young, nervous and squeaky voice I said “Gordon, I’m from Canada.”
Eddie replied “And what do you hope to do over here?”
“Well, I want to be a bike racer.”
“Well we’ll see then, son” said Eddie.
Eddie then wrote down a telephone number and said “Call this lad, and ask him to go for a ride”. I did and he and I spent a lot of time together practicing and competing on the track. This rider was David Penketh a very promising up-and-coming rider from Merseyside. To this day, Dave and I are still very good friends.
Mima Soens often spoke about my first training session with Eddie at the Kirkby Sports Stadium, a 500m asphalt Velodrome . Mima said when Eddie returned home from the session he was very excited. He told Mima that he had found another “one”. What Eddie meant by this is that he had met “ one of a kind”. An athlete that he could mold and teach.
In the beginning of our relationship it was Eddie that I always wanted to speak to about racing and anything else that was on my mind. I quickly learned that he was the Guru in the racing community.
One word sums up Eddie Soens “inspirational”. He was much more than a coach. He was a motivator, healer, listener and father figure.
A very special moment stands out in my mind when thinking about Eddie.
Winning my first World Cycling Championships in Leicester England, 1982.
While getting off the bike following the victory , crowds of fans waiting to greet me I found Eddie . Reaching out I gave him a big hug, then the words, “Happy Birthday Ed” It was Eddie’s 71st Birthday.
I recall him telling everyone the next morning, “ best bloody birthday present I ever ‘ad “.
By the time I became World Champion in 1982 I realized that without Mima
the great things that Eddie achieved would not have been possible.
Mima and Eddie were two fantastic and loving people from Liverpool that nurtured countless athletes. Many went on to win medals and world records at National, World and Olympic competitions.
I believe Mima was Eddie’s pillar of strength. She was a working mother of two, Bill and Mima Jr. and her character was the epitome of kindness and courage.
Although it was Eddie who guided my cycling career to greatness. It was Eddie and Mima together who taught me the values about family and life.
Values that I use today and wisdom that I try to pass onto my family.
Eddie and Mima I will never forget you