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Born in 1915 our inductee was the shining star of a remarkable athletics family. A wonderfully versatile runner, his greatest year was 1936 when the Cambridge undergraduate met with success at a variety of distances.
He demonstrated he was in the form of his life at the Berlin Olympics when in his 400m semi-final he ran 47.3 to break the British record set by Eric Liddell when he won the 1924 Olympic title. The final was held the same day and, with less than 150m to go, the American favourite Archie Williams was two or three metres ahead. Our inductee battled and was closing, edging closer but fell short by 7 inches to win Olympic silver running at super 46.68. It was a European record, and as a British best it survived until 1958. But the USA and British flags were reversed in the 4x400m relay when on anchor our inductee pulled a sub 47 second split out the bag and the team won gold by 15 metres in the second fastest time ever and a European record.
His successes in 1937 included exceptional clockings over 200 yards and a British half mile record. In 1938 he went through the entire season undefeated and was the world’s number one at 400m, scoring a runaway win in the European Championships where he also picked up medals in both relays.
A teacher by profession, he was headmaster of Worcester Royal Grammar School from 1950 until his retirement in 1978. He died in 1995, aged 79.
The year after Chris Brasher unexpectedly became Olympic steeplechase champion and promptly retired, a 17-year-old began to make his mark on the event. Encouraged by his coach Tom Heeley, a former marathon runner, to try the steeplechase, he found instant success by winning the 1957 AAA Junior mile steeplechase championship. The following year he set an unofficial world junior record in the 3000m steeplechase.
It was in 1959, still only 19, that he became the senior AAA champion and earned a place in the British team. He missed out on the 1960 Olympics but in 1961 he won in matches against West Germany, Poland and France and his best time of 8:42.0 ranked him a close second to Brasher on the UK all-time list.
He suffered a big disappointment in 1962. He qualified for the final at the European Championships but a knee injury forced him to withdraw. However, not all was lost because in November he travelled to Perth, Western Australia for the Commonwealth Games and came away with the silver medal. His major breakthrough came in 1963. He broke the British record four times. He ranked fifth in the world that year and was beginning to be considered a prospective medallist at the 1964 Olympics.
The Games in Tokyo proved stunningly successful for Britain with victories by Lynn Davies, Ken Matthews, Mary Rand and Ann Packer. No fewer than eight other medals were gained, including a silver for our inductee in a lifetime best of 8:32.4.
A motor cycle fitter who had to fit in his three training sessions a day while working a 45-hour week was technically superb in his clearance of hurdles and the water jump. Consistency personified, he came very close to his UK record in 1966 and 1967. One record that has remained intact, and may for eternity, is his collection of eight AAA steeplechase titles between 1959 and 1967. He retired following the 1968 Olympics and has for many years lived on the beautiful Isle of Man.
This man’s contribution to coaching in this country has been both profound and varied. Not only has he personally guided some 35 athletes to international standard, including one of the all-time greats of athletics, but he was for many years a national coach, UK director of coach and teacher education and Olympic team coach, not to mention being the author of valuable instructional books and his tireless work for the Loughborough Summer School.
Loughborough has played an important role in his career. He studied practical physical education and geography there in the late 50’s and left Loughborough with a PE Diploma. His first major coaching success was Paul Dickenson, who was an English Schools champion five years running from 1964, and would later develop into an Olympic representative and British record holder. However, he coached successfully over a wide range of events and served on the executive committee of the English Schools for 10 years.
He was appointed National Coach for the North of England in 1970 but continued the “Hammer School”, he was running and coached commonwealth medalists in the hammer and another one of his successes was Scottish discus thrower Meg Ritchie, the 1982 Commonwealth Games champion who has been the UK record holder ever since 1977.
But he will be linked forever with the name Jonathan Edwards, who was a physics student at Durham University and had a triple jump personal best of 16.05m when Johnson began advising him in the autumn of 1986. Progress was steady but unspectacular. The breakthrough into world class came in 1989 when Edwards jumped 17.28m, improving to 17.43m in 1991, but he suffered disappointments and illness and when he recovered his health and became world record holder in 1995, with a huge 18m29, Edwards instantly spoke of it being a team effort, and in that team was his long-time coach, our inductee.
He was named British Coach of the Year in 1995, while in 2016 he was inducted into the Loughborough Sport Hall of Fame.
Born in 1933 he was only 17 when, in 1950, he won the AAA junior 440 yards in an impressive time. Following National Service in the Army, he began medical studies at Oxford and in 1954 the former boy wonder, whom many had already written off as ‘burned out’, emerged from the shadows to become the most exciting half-mile star for many years. He won the Commonwealth Games, and at the European Championships ran a splendid 1:47.4 800m to finish 4th. He won Olympic silver over the 800m in 1956 and in 1957 lowered his British 800m record to under 1m 47.
He also made an important contribution to athletics off the track as one of the founders of the influential International Athletes’ Club and was for a time the secretary of the AAA. In his last years he bravely battled against leukaemia, sadly passing at the age of 71.
Formerly a promising full back (he turned down a professional football offer from Rotherham United when he was 17), our inductee handled a shot for the first time while waiting to bat in a cricket match. With his pads on he managed to heave the junior implement over 13 metres, which wasn’t bad for someone with no idea of technique. Soon after winning the Yorkshire junior title in 1955 he met chief national coach Geoff Dyson who told him “you can be Europe’s first 60-foot shot putter.”
He was a fine natural athlete who could run 100 yards in 10.2, worked hard on his strength and technique, and progress came swiftly. He set his first British record of 16.94m in 1957 and by the following year the colliery blacksmith was ready to take on the world. He set seven UK records in 1958 and won the Commonwealth title in Cardiff and the European title in Stockholm.
An Italian beat him to become Europe’s first 60-footer, but in 1959 he became European record holder with 18.59m. With a huge 19m plus throw the Rome Games looked good but proved a monumental disappointment for him. Weakened by a combination of illness and lack of appetite brought on by the considerable heat and humidity. Ten pounds lighter then when he arrived, he was eliminated in qualifying. So dejected he considered retirement but was determined to establish himself as the world’s number one. He improved his European record to 19.11m, a distance which would have won the Olympic silver medal.
He carried all before him in 1961; undefeated all season and was ranked third on the world all-time list. He was now truly among the shot putting greats, with 20m plus throws that in 1962 the world record was a possibly and retaining his Commonwealth and European titles. Unhappily, none of those prizes came his way for in July 1962 – still only 24 – he signed professional Rugby League forms for Oldham. It was a decision he was to regret, for his new career lasted only a few weeks. He continued to compete on the Scottish Highland Games circuit for many years, but it’s the honours he might have accrued had he retained his amateur status. He died aged 66.
Amid all the hype surrounding the Zola Budd v Mary Decker clash in the 1984 Olympic 3000m final, the brilliant performance by a British runner winning the silver medal was shamefully overlooked. It was the highlight of a long but injury-hampered career which featured also a world title and several British records.
Wendy joined Feltham AC aged 11. She started as a sprinter and long jumper, but quickly turned to cross country and the middle distances. It was in 1977 that she won her first national title, the Intermediate Girls cross country. That summer she won the 1500m in her first appearance for the British junior team.
The Loughborough graduate won the 1981 National cross-country title and later that year became the first female British athlete to try her luck on the American road circuit. During a stay of eight months she won several races and it was the making of her as a world class runner. Highlights of her 1982 season included a Commonwealth record and a silver medal in the Brisbane Commonwealth Games.
She enjoyed a momentous season in 1983. Following another successful American tour, during which she became the first to beat her idol, Grete Waitz, in an American road race and moved to second on the world all-time list over 10km, she performed with distinction at the first ever World Championships in Helsinki, 5th in both the 3000m and 1500m. She went on to win New York’s prestigious Fifth Avenue mile and ended the year in San Diego in December by winning the IAAF’s inaugural World 10km Road Championship.
Her preparations for the Los Angeles Olympics were severely hindered when in the spring of 1984 she sustained an ankle injury while training in the USA. She recovered from that setback but was in bed with flu at the time of the Olympic Trials. Fortunately, the selectors had faith in her, which she repaid by finishing second. She became the first British woman to win an Olympic medal at a distance longer than 800m. She battled one injury after another, and in 1988 she took the 3000m bronze medal at the European Indoor Championship.
In 1990 Wendy joined the staff of Athletics Today magazine as events & classified sales executive, later becoming publishing manager. She was awarded the MBE in 2015 for her services to athletics and in addition to her distinguished racing career, she has held many roles. Later in 2015 she was appointed managing director of Great Run Publishing; whose titles include Athletics Weekly.
Born on 1942 our inductee has made his mark on our sport in three separate fields: as an Olympic competitor, as a coach to one of Britain’s most celebrated athletes, and as the longest serving television athletics commentator.
Two legendary BBC television commentators have already been inducted into the hall of fame, David Coleman and Ron Pickering, and now it’s the turn of their former colleague. He was a member of the BBC commentary team from 1973 until after the 2008 Olympics, and as a freelance broadcaster, has just hung up his microphone.
His serious involvement with athletics started in 1958 and such was his precocious talent as a sprint hurdler that the following year, aged 16, he became English Schools Intermediate champion. Two years later he won the English Schools Senior title.
He trained hard at Loughborough College, while qualifying as a teacher of PE and maths, but it wasn’t until 1967 that he made his big breakthrough at 110m hurdles, improving his best time to 14.1 seconds to rank equal fourth on the UK all-time list. In 1968 he made the Olympic team, equalling his personal best in his heat in Mexico City, and clocked a British record time for the 200m hurdles. He competed in the European Championships and the Commonwealth Games and retired from racing following the 1971 season. However, that was just the end of one strand of his involvement in athletics.
Long before he became a familiar voice and face on television, Storey had begun coaching one of the most recognisable figures in the sport. Geoff Capes was only 15 when he began to instruct him in the art of shot putting. Incredibly, already at 15 Geoff was over 6ft 5in tall and weighed over 16 stone. It became a close and successful partnership with Geoff who would continue to have success and become a household name.
His first Olympics as a commentator was in Montreal in 1976, a disappointing Games for the British team as the only medal came in the 10,000m where Brendan Foster, later a BBC colleague, finished third. He would go on to broadcast at all subsequent Olympic celebrations as well as at numerous World and European Championships and Commonwealth Games. After 5 decades of professional broadcasting, he has literally just called it a day. He has a track named after him at Wodson Park Sports and Leisure Centre near his home in Ware, Hertfordshire.
Athens Men’s 4x100m Relay Team
The year is 1912. The Titanic, on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York, strikes an iceberg and sinks … Herbert Asquith is Prime Minister … The Great War is two years away … the world record for 1500m stands at 3:55.8 and no man has ever jumped higher than two metres. That was the year when Britain won the inaugural Olympic 4x100m relay title. Ninety-two years would pass before Britain would recapture that title.
During that period British teams finished second on three occasions and third twice but traditionally this event was an American preserve with no fewer than 15 Olympic victories. And at the Athens Olympics of 2004 almost everyone assumed that would become 16 wins considering that in their heat the USA ran five metres clear of Britain and, for the final the USA team included the new Olympic 100m champion Justin Gatlin, the new Olympic 200m champion Shawn Crawford, Coby Miller and Maurice ‘Cannonball’ Greene, who was the world record holder at the time. It was a team fully capable of breaking the world record of 37.40. Well, life is full of surprises. While the American “dream team” suffered a calamitous exchange between Gatlin and Miller, the British runners – none of whom had made the 100m final – were making splendid progress. The Bath Bullet, to peanut head, to pretty boy MD succeeded in handing the stick to one of Birmingham’s finest… two metres ahead of the USA and Nigeria. Even a storming anchor by Maurice Greene proved insufficient … just. The wide eyed Super Brummie held on for a stunning victory by 0.01s.
2nd leg runner added “We really believed as a team we could do it. When it comes to flat speed the Americans are totally amazing, so the only way we can take them out is with our baton skills.” Those skills were honed during a multitude of training sessions which also featured the other squad members, Christian Malcolm, Chris Lambert, Nick Smith and Dwayne Grant, all of whom played an important role even though they didn’t get to race in the Athens relay.
The unsung hero behind this momentous triumph was relay team coach Steve Perks, himself once a decent sprinter and who was head coach to the Welsh Commonwealth Games team in 1994. He was in charge of the senior British relay squad for six years and his massive contribution to the Olympic victory was recognised by being inducted later in 2004 into the Coaching Hall of Fame. That wasn’t his only success because, during his time as sprint relay coach, his teams also won gold medals at the European Championships and silver medals at the World Championships. A truly super team.