Born on 15th of December 1899
Died in Enfield, Hertfordshire
Died on 14th of January 1978
Harold Abrahams is one of the great figures in British athletics, not only as an athlete himself but as an administrator and writer who helped take the sport from something on the periphery of our sporting life to a far more central position.
He was born in Bedford on December 15 1899, the son of a Jewish financier who had emigrated from Poland. Abrahams enjoyed a privileged upbringing, attending Repton School. Like both his elder brothers he was a gifted athlete, winning school events and setting records in the sprints and long jump. He served as a lieutenant at the end of WWI.
Abrahams attended Caius College Cambridge, again excelling in athletics, winning a place in the 1920 Olympic team, though he performed only moderately at those games. Eric Liddell and Harold’s brother Adolphe, a pioneer in sports medicine, pushed Harold to improve his technique – and chances – by using professional coach Sam Mussabini. Mussabini’s refinements on top of the natural athleticism of the six-foot-tall and superbly-muscled Abrahams, and the latter’s sheer will to win, saw Abrahams take the 100m gold in the Paris Olympics in 1924 (memorably retold in the film Chariots of Fire).
A broken leg sustained in 1925 meant his career as a contestant was over, but Abrahams wrote for The Sunday Times on athletics for more than 40 years, and served at the top levels of British athletics administration for just about as long, also becoming a well-known voice on the BBC in covering athletics meetings. Though he was awarded the CBE for his work on the National Parks Commission where he was Secretary, Abrahams (unlike both his brothers) was surprisingly not knighted for his lengthy service, perhaps because of his sometimes acerbic nature. He died in Enfield on January 14 1978.
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