Page 30 - Summer2014Gazette
P. 30


   Centenary of that ‘real human being’…
   the greatest Heathern

 In a year dominated by such      London Empire Games in             Britain at the Berlin Games
 sporting events as the World     1934 but missed the Sydney         in 1936. Unfortunately he
                                  Empire games in 1938 as he         had injured himself while out
  Cup, the Commonwealth           was taking his law exams. He       walking just before the Games
 Games and the Ryder Cup          set World records in 1937,         and so did himself no justice,
 it is not altogether surprising  1938 and 1939 at the Mile,         not even finishing in his heat.
   that many people even in       Half Mile (and 800m) and           He had to wait until he was
  the world of athletics might    also at the Three Quarters of      over 85 for his MBE, the
  overlook the fact that 100      a Mile. 4.06.4, 1.48.4 (1.49.2     result of a lengthy campaign
years ago on 30 August 1914,      for 880), and 2.59.5 were his      by his friends.
 one of Britain’s greatest ever   World record marks and in
                                  1945 he improved his mile          He decided not to run in the
      athletes was born.          time to 4.04.2 in Stockholm.       1948 Olympic Games as he
                                  Maybe his greatest Athletic        took the view that he could
In his lifetime he was very       achievement was winning the        only properly prepare for either
much a legend and his exploits    ‘National’ at Sheffield in 1948    the ‘National’ or the Olympics
during his active athletic        leading Blackheath to their first  and he chose an event that had
career were well documented       ever National team medals,         massive significance at the time.
and keenly followed, but in       something the club would           Whether, by effectively turning
later years having retired        not achieve again until 1986.      his back on the Olympics, he
from active athletics he would    From photos taken at this race     lost the opportunity to light the
watch as new generations of       you can see just how much he       flame is open to conjecture. He
athletes threatened to banish     wanted this victory, what he       was our greatest ever athlete
his achievements to obscurity.    put himself through and his        and deliberately choosing not
However, here at Blackheath       absolute determination to win.     to participate in the Olympics
and Bromley Harriers, the name                                       probably lost him some support.
of Sydney Wooderson could         One obvious achievement
never be forgotten especially     is however conspicuous by          Unlike some modern
when in 2007 the clubhouse was    its absence and the ultimate       athletes for whom the lure of
renamed the Sydney Wooderson      question asked about him           international fame and wealth
Centre an act which took place    will always be what he             made them forget their loyalty
after the Memorial Service in     might have achieved in the         to the grass roots of club level
his honour. Here his portrait     Olympics if fate had been          Sydney remained committed
and many other artifacts remain   more discriminating. But for       to the club as an athlete and
on display for present and        the Second World War, it’s         as an official. He was twice
future members to be reminded     very likely he would have won      President of Blackheath
of who he was and what he         Olympic Gold in the 1940           Harriers, the second time
achieved.                         and 1944 Games which of            during their centenary year in
                                  course never took place. But
His achievements during           for that war, Sydney might
his Athletics career were         even have been the first to
impressive enough. He won         break 4 minutes for the mile.
Gold at the Paris Europeans       Nonetheless, Sydney was an
in 1938 at 1500m and also in      Olympian, representing Great
1946 at 5000m in Oslo. Sydney
won silver in the Mile at the
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