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Daley Thompson was twice Olympic gold medallist. He won a record breaking 12 decathlons over a six year period. His great talent stretched across a range of events, it was developed through systematic, tough and highly effective training. But Daley was known for his mental resolve and ability to master his rivals psychologically as well as physically. In announcing the induction chair of England Athletics John Graves described Daley Thompson as ‘the most complete athlete of modern times, if not of all time’.
Sally Gunnell’s career saw her win World Championships silver in 1991, Olympic gold in 1992 and World Championships gold in a world record in 1993. In the Commonwealth Games she won in gold in 1986, 1990 and 1994. She was ranked number one in the world in 1991, 1992, 1993 and 1994. She held the UK record for over 20 years and was one of few athletes to hold Commonwealth, World, Olympic and European titles at same time.
Sebastian Coe won the Olympic 1500m titles in both 1980 and 1984 as well as numerous championship medals, it was a surprise to many that his 1986 European 800m title was his first at the distance. His 1981 world record for 800m was truly ahead of its time and Wilson Kipketer remains the only man to have surpassed the feat. Coe also set world records at 1500m, mile and the 1000m. Coe has since become known as the man who brought the Olympics to England with the Games planned for London in 2012 now a byword for potential and hope in sport, not only for athletics but across the spectrum of events which will be held at the Games.
Always regards as the ‘athletes athlete’ Steve Ovett notably won the 800m gold medal at the Moscow Olympics. He won many other national and international championship medals at 800m, 1500m and a Commonwealth Games 5000m title. He also set world records at 1500m and the mile. But Ovett was quintessentially a racer ‘I don’t run for a time, I run to win’. The highest accolade that Ovett has been given perhaps came from his great rival Sebastian Coe, ‘He’s the greatest runner I ever competed against, probably the most complete athlete I know’.
David Hemery broke the world record for 400m hurdles in the 1968 Olympic final. His win was the first time in 36 years a British man had won an Olympic title in a world record. The performance saw him voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year. He won Olympic bronze in 1972 and was twice Commonwealth sprint hurdles champion. His UK record for 400m hurdles stood for 21 years. Hemery was the first President of UK Athletics.
Sir Roger Bannister
Roger Bannister’s feat in running the first ever sub-4 minute mile at Iffley Road Track, Oxford, in May 1954 is for many people the most historic moment in sport. Running for the AAAs Bannister defied the windy conditions to beat not only 4 minutes with his time of 3:59.4 but also beat his rival John Landy to the target that each had been striving for. The two later came head-to-head in the Empire Games that year in what became known as the Miracle Mile. Bannister, this time wearing the England vest, triumphed over Landy, who had since lowered the record, to win in 3:58.8 to 3:59.6 the first time two men broke the 4 minute mile in the same race.
David Holding’s career saw him excel at an incredible range of distances. He had the endurance to win four London Marathon titles in the wheelchair event in 1989, 1994, 1996 and 1997. But at the other end of the spectrum David became Paralympic champion at 100m in Atlanta in 1996, and was crowned world champion at 100m in 1998. To underline his diversity David also won the 1994 World title at 1500m. He was awarded the MBE in 1998.
David Coleman is the athletics and sports commentator for the BBC whose voice provided the soundtrack to some of the most historic moments in the sport.
At the ceremony BBC sports broadcaster Paul Dickenson described David Coleman as ‘the finest sports broadcaster this country has ever known’. Coleman started work for the BBC in 1954 and his work included covering 11 summer Olympic Games.
Geoff Dyson has been described as the father of coaching. He was the first chief national coach, establishing a network of qualified coaches and set standards for coaching in this country. His classic book The Mechanics of Athletics was published in 1961 and ran to eight editions, being translated into five languages. When he died in 1981 the McWhirter twins described him as ‘probably the greatest all round coach in the world’.
Chris Brasher’s contribution to athletics in England is as diverse as it is deep. Many will recognise him as having been pacemaker when Sir Roger Bannister ran the first the 4min mile. But while he played this important role in arguably the most historic moment in sport Brasher was himself a formidable athlete as evidenced by his Olympic gold in the 1956 Olympic steeplechase. He went on to be founding father of English orienteering, an award winning journalist, inventor of the Brasher boot and founder of the sportswear company that is now Sweatshop. But the impact he made by co-founding the London Marathon with John Disley means that Chris Brasher’s legacy and importance to athletics in England remains as strong and deep as ever.