sprinter Harold Abrahams won the 100-meter gold medal at
the 1924 Paris Olympic Games, equaling the Olympic record
of 10.6. (He had previously equaled the record in a qualifying
heat.) Abrahams was the first non-American to win the sprint
event. He also earned a silver medal at the Paris Games,
running the lead leg of the 4x100m Relay, and he finished
sixth in the 200m event.
Abrahams created considerable controversy
in his homeland when, the year of the 1924 Olympics, he
hired a coach––the first British athlete to
hire a personal trainer. The tactic paid immediate dividends,
as Abrahams established
new English records in the events he would soon take on at the Paris Olympics.
His Olympic story, albeit with much “Hollywood license”, is portrayed
in the 1981 Academy Award-winning motion picture “Chariots of Fire”.
The film centers on the personal battle between Abrahams
and his “Chariots” protagonist,
Scottish track star E.H. Liddell, and their competitive struggles to win the
100m sprint. In actuality, Liddell did not compete in the real 100m event because
its finals were held on a Sunday, and Liddell, a devout Presbyterian, would
not compete on his Sabbath day. In real life, Abrahams
and Liddell met up in the
Olympic 200m sprint, and the best the rivals could achieve was a bronze medal
for Liddle and a sixth place finish for Abrahams. Liddell won an Olympic gold
medal in the 400m event, a race Abrahams did not enter.
Though seldom noted,
Abrahams made his initial Olympic appearance at the 1920
Games in Antwerp, the first Olympiad following World War I. However, his promise
at home would not be realized on this international stage. His trial heat times
failed to qualify for the finals of the 100m and 200m sprints, he had no success
in the long jump, and his British 4x100 Relay team managed only a sixth place
A year after his successful 1924 Olympic triumph, a serious
leg injury cut short Abraham’s competitive career.
A lawyer by profession, he nonetheless continued to distinguished
himself as a writer, broadcaster and leader of England’s
amateur sports establishment. He was particularly committed to the development
of Jewish sports activities in Great Britain.
Abrahams represented England
and Northern Ireland on the International Amateur Athletic
Federation (IAAF), the international governing body of
track and field.
In 1948, he was inducted into the Veterans of the IAAF, with such luminaries
as King Gustav VI Adolf of Sweden.