John Le Masurier

John Le Masurier

England Athletics was greatly saddened to hear of the death of John Le Masurier, coach to many great athletes including Mary Rand. John was inducted into the England Athletics Hall of Fame in 2010.

Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time.

On John's induction into the England Athletics Hall of Fame the following citation for John was produced by Mel Watman:

As was the case with Denis Watts, Guernsey-born John Le Masurier was quite unlike his mentor, the dynamic and extrovert Geoff Dyson. Although like Dyson he rose to the rank of Major during the War – as a Royal Marine, serving in the Middle East, Sicily, Germany and Holland – John Le Mas (as he was always affectionately known) preferred a mild, laid-back approach to coaching ... and just how effective that was can be gauged from the imposing list of athletes he advised.

He took up athletics in 1935, describing his active career as “unspectacular” although he did run 440 yards hurdles in 58.5 and was Northern Universities champion, and after receiving a First Class Honours Diploma from Loughborough Colleges he began coaching in 1939. After the War he taught PE for three years at King's School, Peterborough, before being appointed AAA National Coach for the South of England in 1949. In 1961 he and Denis Watts became joint AAA Principal National Coaches and both served the sport well in that capacity until their retirement in 1978.

John Le Mas was one of the most versatile of coaches, his quiet authority, gentle persuasion and wide-ranging knowledge of training and technique helping sprinters, middle distance and cross country runners, hurdlers, jumpers, throwers and all-rounders to fulfil their potential.

His crowning glory was Mary Rand, a prodigiously gifted athlete he began coaching after the 1958 season. She went on to become the sport's “golden girl”, winning the long jump with a world record 6.76m, finishing second in the pentathlon (becoming only the second woman ever to exceed 5000 points on the scoring system then in use) and third in the 4x100m relay at the Tokyo Olympics of 1964. Of that historic long jump, John Le Mas wrote: “Technically it was superb. This was not only the finest performance ever by an athlete with whom I have been associated, but it set the pattern for the greatest series of performances ever by a British track and field team in the Olympic Games.”

Other pupils who made their mark included such British record setters as Bob Frith (indoor sprints), Dave Segal (200m), the current AAA chairman Chris Carter (800m), Diane Leather (who had earlier been the first woman to break five minutes for the mile), Jack Parker (120 yards hurdles), Angus Scott and Harry Kane (440 yards hurdles),  Fred Alsop (triple jump), Mark Pharaoh, Bill Tancred and Gerry Carr (discus), Sue Platt (javelin) and Ann Wilson (pentathlon), plus Commonwealth shot champion Martyn Lucking.

His first major international assignment was at the 1954 Commonwealth Games in Vancouver and he was British team coach at the five Olympics between 1960 and 1976. One of his most memorable moments was as chief team coach in Volgograd in 1963 when the British team famously beat Russia.

Photograph supplied by Jack Miller

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