2014 Hall of Fame Inductees

Bob Matthews

Born in Kent in 1961 his sporting career began with him representing Great Britain at goalball. But it was his switch to athletics that saw him go on to take an incredible eight Paralympic titles amongst many medals. He also re-wrote the world record books on 22 occasions over a wide range of distances.

In the 1983 European Championships he demonstrated not only the range of his ability but also that he was able to successfully contest multiple titles at a championship. His treble at 800m, 1500m and 5000m was replicated at both the 1984 and 1988 Paralympic Games and at two world championships and European championships!

He won individual medals at longer distances and in 1986 he became the only blind athlete to run below two minutes for 800m – something not to be repeated by another athlete in his category for more than 20 years.  In a glittering career there were also set backs and family tragedy in 2003 but he returned to the track and qualified for another Paralympic Games in Athens 2004… his seventh Paralympics… and a year later he won another European title over 5000m.

He moved to New Zealand and continued to excel at other sports. He contested the 2009 World Para Triathlon Championships winning silver for New Zealand. He, amongst other championships, competed in two World Para-cycling Championships.  Bob was the first Paralympian to be awarded an MBE.  And deservedly so.

Sir Arthur Gold

Born in 1917, he made a massive and varied contribution to his beloved sport. An international high jumper in 1937 he continued competing until in his forties, he was among the pioneers of British coaching. His most notable coaching success was with the legendary high jumper Dorothy Tyler in the early 1950s, converting her style from the scissors to the more efficient western roll.

But it was as an administrator that he made his most indelible mark. At one time or another he filled practically every post of significance in British and English athletics – his policy being “evolution not revolution”. Amongst many roles he was the athletics team leader at 3 Olympics.  His crowning achievement was presiding over the European Athletic Association. In that post his diplomatic skills, knowledge and a mission to protect athletics from amongst other things the dangers of drug use, made him one of the most respected figures in world sport.

His stance on drugs was unwavering. As he said in 1983: “Sport is about health and honesty. The use of drugs is unhealthy and dishonest; it is cheating.” He advocated random doping tests to be carried out at any time, not merely at competitions, a policy which has since been adopted by the IAAF and responsible national governing bodies.  Knighted in 1984 for his services to athletics, He was elected president of the AAA in 1995 but ill health caused him to cut back on his activities. He passed away in 2002, aged 85.

Ron Hill

It was in his marathon debut, in 1961 (aged 22), this Ron burst into national prominence by winning the Liverpool City Marathon. “Never again” was his immediate reaction, but he was hooked!  There were major setbacks early on. He dropped out at the 1962 European Championships, and the 1964 Olympics proved a nightmare. He flew to Tokyo as the second fastest ever marathoner but everything went wrong and he wound up 18th in the 10,000m and 19th in the marathon. “The first day back at work after Tokyo was very embarrassing,” he recalled.  He bounced back by smashing Emil Zátopek’s world track records for 15 miles and 25,000m in 1965, and set his sights on the Mexico City Olympics of 1968. Everything was shaping up marvellously; in April he broke Ron Clarke’s world 10 miles track record and he clocked a world’s best 20 miles time… but… the selectors did not pick him for the Olympic marathon, just the 10,000m in which he finished a highly creditable seventh.

Shortly after the Games he reduced his world 10 miles record and it was during his preparations for 1969 that this inductee (he has a PhD in textile chemistry) brought his scientific mind to his running. It worked and in July 1969 he set a personal best and two months later, wearing startling new racing gear of a string vest and very brief-cut shorts he had designed to give an extra cooling effect, he won the European title and in December he improved his time to 2:11:55… Ron Hill sportswear was born.

His greatest year was 1970, ranking as the world’s no 1 marathoner; he became the first Briton to win the Boston classic, with a European record, and he won at the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh.  However, denied pre-selection for the 1972 Olympics he had to qualify through an energy sapping trial race and finished sixth in Munich. His dream of becoming the first Briton to win the Olympic marathon was shattered. In 1979 he set a British veterans best which lasted until this year. He continues to run, having covered at least a mile every day for the past 50 years. He was awarded the MBE in 1972 for services to athletics.

Muriel Cornell

In 1926 at the age of 19 Muriel became a founder member of the ladies’ section of Mitcham Athletic Club. She long jumped 4.65m in her first competition but progressed so quickly that in August she twice exceeded the listed world record with 5.48m and ended her season with a European record of 5.57m, a distance she equalled in 1927 and which was ratified as a new world record.Also that year she won the 100 yards hurdles as well as long jump in her first WAAA Championships.

In 1928 Britain did not send a team to the Amsterdam Olympics but in 1929 she set a European record of 5.77m at the WAAA Championships – but her best year proved to be 1930. She improved to 5.80m (the first 19ft jump by a European) a distance which would remain the British record until 1952. She won the long jump and 80m hurdles at the WAAA Championships, having earlier equalled the world record.

In 1933 she gave birth to a daughter, Lorna (who would herself become WAAA junior long jump champion although her main sport was tennis, twice winning the Wimbledon junior title), but hopes of an international comeback in 1934 were dashed by a severed Achilles tendon. However, she contributed to her sport in other ways. Amongst many roles she was the honorary secretary of the WAAA for 11 years and the women’s team manager at the 1936 Olympics. After the war she played a significant role in setting up a national coaching scheme. She passed away aged 89 in 1996.

George Gandy

For decades Loughborough University has been synonymous with athletic excellence and no one has played a more vital part in that prolonged success than George Gandy. For 33 years he directed the university’s athletics programme and guided some 75 athletes to senior international standard, and in a number of cases, to global championship medals.

Just some of the high-flying athletes who have come under his influence are Jack Buckner, Lisa Dobriskey and Jon Brown, Jon being twice fourth in Olympic marathons. Sebastian Coe entered Loughborough in October 1975 aged 19. Coe was of course coached by his father, Peter, but it was Gandy who introduced him to circuit training, which Coe always regarded as an essential ingredient of his success.  In his autobiography, Coe writes: “I needed somebody to monitor my training” “Under his guidance I began circuit training and weight training, working on upper-body strength and hamstring length in addition to winter speed work.” It proved a winning formula.

Prior to his appointment at Loughborough, he was a former age-group record holder for the mile and Gosforth Harrier,  was the AAA’s Northern Counties Administrator and he has also been UK National Endurance Coach. Awards have be plentiful for this inductee, and we welcome him into our Hall of Fame.

Guy Butler

Born in 1899 Guy was Britain’s most bemedalled Olympic athlete of all-time, a distinction shared since 1984 with Seb Coe. He won four Olympic medals as a 400m and 4x400m relay runner in the Games of 1920 and 1924, including a gold in the 1920 relay.  In 1924 he won bronze behind his team mate Eric Liddell. Under any other circumstances such a magnificent and plucky feat would have received the attention and acclaim it merited, but on this occasion it tended to be overlooked in the excitement surrounding the winner of the race. Butler picked up another bronze in the relay and in 1926 he equalled the listed world record of 30.6 for 300 yards. He ended his career at the 1928 Olympics.

Butler went on to make a valuable contribution to British athletics in many ways. He passed away aged 81.

Ashia Hansen

Ashia started as an middle distance runner before switching to the sprints, high jump and long jump and discovering – “for a bit of a laugh” – that the triple jump was her forte. In 1994 she set her first UK record of 14.09m.  She became a significant player on the international stage in 1995 setting a Commonwealth record and at the Atlanta Olympic Games a year later came a frustrating fourth, but she started her medal collection with silver at the 1997 World Indoors and the season jumped  a magnificent 15.15m. That distance not only elevated her to fifth on the world all-time list, at the time, that would have ranked her among the top 20 British MEN that year!

In 1998 was all too typical for its highs and lows. At the European Indoors she smashed the world indoor record with 15.16m but injured her heel in the process, causing her to miss practically the entire outdoor season. However, later in the year in Kuala Lumpur she became the inaugural Commonwealth Games champion. The 1999 World Indoors title was hers but more agonising injuries follows, but the upswing came in 2002 as she came away with gold medals from the Commonwealth Games and European Championships, and for the first time she was ranked world number 1. She again won the world Indoor title in Birmingham 2003, but this proved to be her final international championship appearance due to a succession of further injuries.

She retired having become one of the world’s greatest ever triple jumpers with six major titles, including a world indoor record, and who knows what more she would have achieved but for the injuries.

George Bunner

As a member of Liverpool Harriers, George was a promising young athlete, winning the AAA Junior 880 yards title in 1950. He studied to become a Chartered Electrical Engineer and eventually became Managing Director of one of the largest electrical contractors in the North West of England… but in 1971 his interest in athletics was revived. Together with some friends he formed an athletic club in his hometown in Cheshire, and amongst other things, revived the celebrated Frodsham Hill Races.

Since 1976 thousands of youngsters, including such future international stars as Robbie Grabarz and Denise Lewis, enjoyed their first taste of the sport in Sportshall Athletics, the brainchild of George.  Realising that traditional track and field would not necessarily suit primary school pupils, he created Sportshall Athletics as an enjoyable way for children to try running, jumping and throwing activities in a safe indoor environment.  The programme became so popular that a competition format was developed and the first UK Championships were staged in 1980. Startrack was another of his initiatives.

Recognised worldwide as a leading authority on the development of children’s athletics, he left the engineering profession in 1992 to work within the sport on a full-time but voluntary basis. Among his initiatives have been the World Marathon Challenge. Last year more than 50,000 children from over 60 countries took part – another example of this inductees massive contribution to our sport.His latest venture is the Med Ball Challenge, a great way to introduce safe throwing techniques to children.

In 2002 in recognition of his services to athletics, he was awarded the MBE. Twelve years later, aged 82, he remains an inspirational driving force within our sport.

Darren Campbell

This athlete is, in so many ways, unique – and especially among British male sprinters – in that he has won medals at every sprint event at major championships. His reputation as a great competitor was established early on, for in 1991 – aged only 17 – he won the 100m and 200m at the European Junior Championships. The following year, at the World Junior Championships, he finished second to Trinidad’s Ato Boldon in both sprints and secured his first global title as a member of the 4x100m relay team. However, He found the transition to the senior ranks tougher than anticipated; and he was almost lost to athletics as he played semi-pro football for two seasons before becoming serious about sprinting again. Now coached by Linford Christie – he picked up his first major senior medal with bronze in the relay at the World Championships and in 1998 he became the European 100m champion.

It was at 200m though that he went sensationally close to becoming Olympic champion in Sydney 2000, winning silver.  In 2003 he came within an eyelash of becoming World champion at 100m winning bronze.

However, an Olympic gold medal awaited him the following summer when, taking the baton from Jason Gardener and handing over to Marlon Devonish with Mark Lewis-Francis on the anchor, the British squad scored a stunning victory over the heavily favoured USA team by 1/100th of a second.

He retired in 2006 but his passion for athletics continues.