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Harold Abrahams

Full name: Harold Maurice Abrahams
Gender: Male
Height: 6'0" (183 cm)
Weight: 165 lbs (75 kg)
Born: December 15, 1899 in Bedford, Bedford, Great Britain
Died: January 14, 1978 in Enfield, Greater London, Great Britain
Affiliations: University of Cambridge, Cambridge (GBR) / Achilles Club, (GBR)
Country: GBR Great Britain
Sport: Athletics

Related Olympians: Brother of Sidney Abrahams.

Medals: 1 Gold, 1 Silver (2 Total)

Biography

From an early age, Harold Abrahams set out to emulate his two elder brothers who were both excellent athletes. As a schoolboy at Repton, Harold won the 100 yards and the long jump at the 1918 Public Schools championships and then went up to Caius College, Cambridge, where during his four years’ residence he won a total of eight events in the annual match against Oxford. During his years at Cambridge, Abrahams had his first experience of international competition and his début, in the 1920 triangular match between Ireland and Scotland, saw him win the 220 yards. The following month he competed, without success, in the Antwerp Olympics. After a successful tour of America with the combined Oxford & Cambridge team in 1921, Abrahams confined himself to the domestic scene for the next two seasons and in 1923 set an English long jump record of 23-8¼ in (7.19) before improving the record to 23-8¾ (7.23) with his first victory at the AAA Championships.

Throughout the winter of 1923-24 Abrahams trained assiduously under the eye of the brilliant coach Sam Mussabini – their relationship was one of the many fascinating themes of the award-winning film Chariots of Fire. Reward for a winter of hard work came early in 1924 when Abrahams ran a wind-assisted 9.6 seconds for 100 yards and again improved the English long jump record to 24-2½ (7.38). After an interval of two weeks, he won the 100 yards and long jump at the AAA Championships and then went to Paris for the Olympic Games. Following a near-disaster at the start of the semi-finals for the 100 metres, he ran magnificently in the final to beat the American Jackson Scholz by two feet. His time was officially given as 10.6 seconds although the electric timer showed no more than 10.52 seconds. In Paris, Abrahams also reached the final of the 200 metres and was a member of the relay team that ran progressively faster at each outing before taking the silver medals with a time of 41.2 seconds, which was to remain a British record for 28 years. There were no presentation ceremonies at the Paris Olympics and one month after the Games, Abraham received his medals through the mail; but as the French authorities had not put sufficient stamps on the package he had to pay the excess positive himself!

Abrahams had certainly not fulfilled his potential, particularly as a long jumper, when a severe leg injury put an end to his active career in May 1925, but he went on to render unsurpassed service to the sport as an administrator, journalist, broadcaster, historian and statistician. He was the athletic correspondent of the Sunday Times from 1925 to 1967, a founder member of the Association of Track & Field Statisticians, and for many years a commentator for BBC radio. He became a member of the AAA General Committee in 1926, being appointed Secretary in 1931 and President in 1976. He was the first Secretary of the International Board, which was the forerunner of the British Amateur Athletic Board, and in 1963 he was appointed Chairman of the BAAB after serving as Treasurer for 21 year. Abrahams was not universally popular within the sport and his sometimes brusque manner became rather more pronounced in his later years, but many people can bear witness to the gentler and more generous side of is character. Somewhere within the differing aspects of his personality probably lies the answer to the question as to why he never received any official recognition for the enormous amount of voluntary work he undertook on behalf of the sport. He was, however, awarded the CBE in 1957 as Secretary of the National Parks Commission, which he joined after practicing as a barrister for 13 years.

Personal Best(s): 100y – 9.9 (1924); 100 – 10.6 (1924); 220yS – 21.6 (1923); 200 – 21.9 (1924); 440y – 50.8 (1923); LJ – 7.38 (24-2½) (1924).

Results

Games Age City Sport Event Team NOC Rank Medal
1920 Summer 20 Antwerpen Athletics Men's 100 metres Great Britain GBR 4 h3 r2/4
1920 Summer 20 Antwerpen Athletics Men's 200 metres Great Britain GBR 3 h4 r2/4
1920 Summer 20 Antwerpen Athletics Men's 4 × 100 metres Relay Great Britain GBR 4
1920 Summer 20 Antwerpen Athletics Men's Long Jump Great Britain GBR 20 QR
1924 Summer 24 Paris Athletics Men's 100 metres Great Britain GBR 1 Gold
1924 Summer 24 Paris Athletics Men's 200 metres Great Britain GBR 6
1924 Summer 24 Paris Athletics Men's 4 × 100 metres Relay Great Britain GBR 2 Silver

Men's 100 metres

Games Age City Sport Country Phase Unit Rank T L
1920 Summer 20 Antwerpen Athletics Great Britain Quarter-Finals Heat Three 4
1920 Summer 20 Antwerpen Athletics Great Britain Round One Heat Ten 1 QU 11.0
1924 Summer 24 Paris Athletics Great Britain Final 1 =OR 10.6 4
1924 Summer 24 Paris Athletics Great Britain Semi-Finals Heat Two 1 QU/=OR 10.6
1924 Summer 24 Paris Athletics Great Britain Quarter-Finals Heat Four 1 QU/=OR 10.6
1924 Summer 24 Paris Athletics Great Britain Round One Heat Fourteen 1 QU 11.0

Men's 200 metres

Games Age City Sport Country Phase Unit Rank T MB L
1920 Summer 20 Antwerpen Athletics Great Britain Quarter-Finals Heat Four 3 23.0est 2 m. bh2
1920 Summer 20 Antwerpen Athletics Great Britain Round One Heat Five 2 QU 23.3est 2 m. bh1
1924 Summer 24 Paris Athletics Great Britain Final 6 22.3 2
1924 Summer 24 Paris Athletics Great Britain Semi-Finals Heat One 3 QU 21.9
1924 Summer 24 Paris Athletics Great Britain Quarter-Finals Heat Four 1 QU 22.0
1924 Summer 24 Paris Athletics Great Britain Round One Heat Ten 1 QU 22.2

Men's 4 × 100 metres Relay

Games Age City Sport Team NOC Phase Unit Rank T MB L
1920 Summer 20 Antwerpen Athletics Great Britain GBR Final 4 43.0est 2 m. bh3
1920 Summer 20 Antwerpen Athletics Great Britain GBR Round One Heat Two 2 QU 43.3est 3 m. bh1
1924 Summer 24 Paris Athletics Great Britain GBR Final 2 41.2 4
1924 Summer 24 Paris Athletics Great Britain GBR Semi-Finals Heat Two 1 QU 41.8
1924 Summer 24 Paris Athletics Great Britain GBR Round One Heat One 1 QU/WR 42.0

Men's Long Jump

Games Age City Sport Country Phase Unit Rank D
1920 Summer 20 Antwerpen Athletics Great Britain Final Standings 20 QR
1920 Summer 20 Antwerpen Athletics Great Britain Qualifying Round 20 6.050