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During almost a decade of international sprinting, Kathy Cook (née Smallwood) amassed 23 international championship medals, equalling the most by any English athlete (Linford Christie), and was so far ahead of her time that her British records for 200m (22.10) and 400m (49.43), established at the 1984 Olympics, still stand while her UK 100m record of 11.10 set in 1981 lasted until 2008.
She was third at 200m in the inaugural World Championships in 1983 and reached the peak of her career at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984 when she took the bronze medal in the 400m in 49.43, followed by fourth place in the 200m (just 1/100th away from bronze) in another British record of 22.10.
Gold: 1978, 1982 & 1986 Commonwealth 4x100m relay
Silver: 1982 European & Commonwealth 200m; 1986 Commonwealth 200m; 1983 World 4x100m relay; 1986 Commonwealth 4x400m relay
Bronze: 1983 World 200m; 1984 Olympic 400m; 1986 Commonwealth 400m; 1980 & 1984 Olympic 4x100m relay
In 1929, his final year at Oxford, he made a break through with half mile times of 1:57.6 and 1:56.0. In 1930 and he made a successful AAA Championships debut by winning in the English native record time of 1:53.2. In the first British Empire Games in Hamilton a prodigious finishing sprint carried him to the tape fully 20 yards clear in 1:52.4, the fastest 880 yards time in the world that year. He successfully attained the 800m crown at the 1932 Olympics and was hailed by the American world record breaker Ben Eastman as “the greatest middle distance man the world has ever seen”.
He was among the first ten senior honorary AAA coaches to be appointed and was a press steward at the London Olympics of 1948.
Gold: 1930 Commonwealth 880y; 1932 Olympic 800m
Silver: 1932 Olympic 4x400m
Before she had celebrated her 24th birthday, Dorothy Hyman had become the most bemedalled British athlete up to that time and still ranks as our most successful female sprinter.
By 1963 Dorothy was without doubt the world’s number one sprinter. She went unbeaten and topped the world list at 100m with two legal marks of 11.3, equalling the European record and only 0.1 outside Rudolph’s world record, and 200m with 23.2 for a new European record. Neither time was bettered by a British athlete for ten years. She also contributed to a world 4x110y relay record of 45.2.
Gold: 1962 European 100m; 1962 Commonwealth 100y & 220y
Silver: 1960 Olympic 100m; 1962 European 200m
Bronze: 1960 Olympic 200m; 1964 Olympic 4x100m relay
‘The four minute smiler’, as the immensely popular Yorkshireman was dubbed, followed Walter George, Sydney Wooderson and Roger Bannister and preceded Seb Coe, Steve Ovett and Steve Cram as a British world mile record holder – and has now joined that illustrious company in the England Athletics Hall of Fame. He held World Records in the mile – 3:57.2 in 1957; and 4×1 Mile Relay – 16:30.6 in 1958.
Derek won a bronze at the 1956 Olympics over 5000m. Further evidence of his outstanding stamina came at the 1956 English cross country championship in which he finished third.
Bronze: 1956 Olympic 5000m
Denise Lewis thoroughly deserved her heptathlon gold medal in Sydney in 2000 as she struggled bravely against injuries which came so close to shattering her Olympic dream. Her career was one of long-term consistency at the highest level.
A calf injury early in 1999 had severely hampered her preparation for the World Championships but she recovered in time to score 6724 for second place.
Denise also won golds for England at the 1994 and 1998 Commonwealth Games and 1998 European Championships.
Gold: 1994 Commonwealth; 1998 European;1998 Commonwealth; 2000 Olympics
Silver: 1997 World; 1999 World
Bronze: 1996 Olympics
To coach one athlete to an Olympic title and world record is a monumental achievement, but in Bruce Longden’s case he guided two of Britain’s greatest ever athletes to the ultimate distinction in the sport. A year before being appointed a BAAB National Coach, he began coaching a precocious all-rounder by the name of Daley Thompson – and later, he was coaching another athlete who would hit the heights in Sally Gunnell. In 1984 as Head Coach for the Norwegian Athletic Federation for 4 years, then returned to Britain to serve as a BAF National Coach from 1991 to 1997, his specialist areas being the combined events, hurdles and jumps. He later divided his time between France and South Africa.
British walkers have been responsible for many international triumphs, but none has been quite as successful as Ken Matthews. He won four of his five major international tests at 20 kilometre including the European title in 1962.
Ken also won the first two finals of the Lugano Trophy in 1961 and 1963 where he led Britain to victory. The Lugano Trophy was in effect the world team championship of that time.
Ken won the coveted Olympic gold medal for the 20km walk in Tokyo in 1964.
Gold: 1962 European & 1964 Olympic 20km Walk
Like Bruce Longden, Sam Mussabini coached two individual British Olympic champions; Albert Hill, who completed the 800m/1500m double at the 1920 Olympics, and – more famously – Harold Abrahams, the 1924 100m champion in Paris. But many years earlier, Mussabini had guided another athlete to Olympic glory, South Africa’s Reggie Walker, the 1908 100m champion in London. Mussabini’s next great sprinter was Willie Applegarth who at the 1912 Olympics was a member of Britain’s victorious 4x100m relay team and bronze medallist at 200m. A year after Sam’s death yet another of his protégés, Jack London, kept his memory alive by finishing second in the 1928 Olympic 100m. Unorthodox his methods may have been, but Sam was a great innovator as well as motivator, and his record speaks for itself.
Jean Desforges, as she was, made her international debut in 1947 as an 18 year-old 80m hurdler and subsequently represented Britain also in the long jump and 4x100m relay. She won on 19 occasions when wearing the British colours. As well as her long jumping exploits, Jean also set a British record of 3997 points for the pentathlon in 1953 and her hurdles best of 11.1 in 1954 was just a tenth outside the UK record. At the 1950 European Championships in Brussels she won gold in the 4x100m relay; at the 1952 Olympics she took a relay bronze; further bronze medals in both the hurdles and long jump were gained at the 1954 British Empire Games in Vancouver; while later that season in Bern she became European long jump champion with a leap of 6.04m – close to her 1953 UK record of 6.10m when she became the first British woman to jump over 20 feet.
After her husband’s premature death in 1991 Jean made an enormous contribution to British athletics by setting up and administering the Ron Pickering Memorial Fund, which has distributed over a million pounds to help young athletes. She was also closely involved with Sportshall Athletics.
Donna Hartley, Todd Bennett, Roger Black, Kriss Akabusi, Iwan Thomas. What did they have in common other than all being outstanding 400m runners? They were all coached either throughout or for a significant part of their careers by the man considered the guru of one-lap running, Mike Smith. For over 50 years Mike dedicated himself to helping athletes, while passing on his love of athletics. He was one of the most experienced and accomplished 400m coaches in Europe if not the world. His success is certainly not down to luck or fluke. It was his undying commitment, wealth of knowledge, experience and ability to bring the best out of people which has benefited so many over the years to fulfil their potential.”
No one in the history of British race walking made such a significant and diverse contribution to that segment of our sport than Harold Whitlock … as competitor, coach, judge and official. Whitlock’s career was as long as it was distinguished. He first came into prominence in 1931 with second place in the national 50 kilometres championship and it was not until 1952 (aged 48!) that he bowed out as an international.
Between 1933 and 1939 he won the national 50 kilometres title on six occasions. Other honours included a world 30 miles track record of 4:29:31.8 in 1935 en route to 50 miles in 7:44:47.2 and being the first to walk the 52 miles from London to Brighton in under eight hours, his time of 7:53:50 standing as the record until 1956. Whitlock won the 1938 European 50 kilometres title in 4:41:51.
He remained a prominent and respected figure in race walking circles for the rest of his life.
Gold: 1936 Olympic 50km Walk; 1938 European 50km Walk