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Monday, 26 July 2010

Harold Abrahams (1899-1978)

I guess that most people know of Harold Abrahams through Chariots of Fire, Hugh Hudson's 1981 film of two contrasting athletes part in the 1924 Olympics. I think that Chariots of Fire was maybe the first video along with Kagemusha that I rented, we were staying with the O'Learys in Kettleborough and as a special treat had a visit to Woodbridge and a video rental shop.
One exchange from the film sttays with me. Its between Harold and his wife to be, Sybil.

Harold: I'm what I call semi-deprived.
Sybil: That sounds clever what does it mean?
Harold:It means they lead me to water but they won't let me drink.

Harold was Jewish and his sense of frustration and the need to fight against the restrictions that bound him runbs through the film. His plaque is in Hodford Road in Golders Green still a very Jewish area, cosy and middle class. He went up to Cambridge and read law at Gonville and Caius (again battling the status quo) and there his athletic potential came to the fore and was part of the British Team for the 1924 Paris Olympics. He ran the 100 metres which he won in a time of 10.6 seconds, the 200 metres where he placed 6th and the 4x100 metre relay where the British came 2nd. He broke his leg in 1925 competing in the long jump and his career came to a close. He was a sports journalist for 40 years and commentated on Athletics for the BBC, including the Berlin Olympics and was chairman of the Amateur Athletics Association and the Jewish Athletic Association.

Its these little plots of surburbia throwing up extraordinary people that I love and I genuinely think that I got an insight into what inspired Harold Abrahams to "run them off their feet"

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