Full name: Charles Bennett
Born: December 28, 1870 in Shapwick, Dorset, Great Britain
Died: December 16, 1950 in Bournemouth, Bournemouth, Great Britain
Affiliations: Portsmouth Harriers, Portsmouth (GBR)
Country: Great Britain
Medals: 2 Gold, 1 Silver (3 Total)
Charles Bennett of Finchley Harriers, a railway engine driver at Bournemouth Central Station and known as The Shapwick Express, won the AAA 4 mile title in 1897 and in 1899 he was the National cross-country champion and won both the AAA 4 miles and 10 miles on the track. Early in 1900 he retained his cross country crown, but by the summer he had developed a certain measure of speed and defeated a rather undistinguished field to take the AAA mile title. His winning time of 4:28.2 seconds did not augur well for his Olympic chances but 1900 was not a vintage year for milers and the best time recorded in the world that year was a modest 4:24.4 seconds by the American [John Cregan]. Cregan withdrew from the 1,500 metres at the Paris Olympics on sabbatical grounds and Bennettâs main challenger was [Henry Deloge], the local idol and the world record holder at 1,000 metres. There were no heats for the 1,500 metres and after a close race Bennett beat Deloge by two metres in 4:06.2 seconds. This was said at the time to be a world record, although clearly many athletes had passed the 1,500 metres mark in a faster time during the course of a mile race. Nevertheless Bennett achieved the distinction of being the first British athlete to win an Olympic track and field event.
Bennett won a second gold medal and set a second world record seven days later when he led Britain to victory in the 5000 metres team race and he had, in the interim, won a silver medal in the longer of the two steeplechase events. Despite his two world records and his Olympic titles, Charles Bennett remains a much under-rated athlete, particularly in historical rather than temporal terms. His performance at Paris in July 1900 was possibly the finest double by a British athlete since Fred Elborough achieved the remarkable feat of breaking the world record for both the 220 yards and the 880 yards in one afternoon in October 1876.
Bennettâs Olympic season closed in October with a challenge match against [Alfred Tysoe] at Belle Vue, Manchester. Tysoe was the AAA and Olympic champion at 880 yards/800 metres and Bennett held identical titles at the mile/1500 metres distance, and a meeting was arranged over three-quarters of a mile, which was mid-way between their championship distances, to decide which of these two fine athletes was Britainâs leading middle-distance runner. Tyson won a close race in 3:13.0 seconds but Bennettâs British record of 3:10.6 seconds survived.
Personal Bests: 1500 â 4:06.2 (1900); Mile â 4:24.2 (1899); 2 miles â 9:35.0 (1898); 5000 â 15:20.0 (1900); 4 miles â 19:48.0 (1899).
|1900 Summer||29||Paris||Athletics||Men's 1,500 metres||Great Britain||GBR||1||Gold||WR|
|1900 Summer||29||Paris||Athletics||Men's 4,000 metres Steeplechase||Great Britain||GBR||2||Silver|
|1900 Summer||29||Paris||Athletics||Men's 5,000 metres, Team||Amateur Athletic Association||GBR||1||Gold|
|1900 Summer||29||Paris||Athletics||Great Britain||Final Standings||1||WR||4:06.2|
|1900 Summer||29||Paris||Athletics||Great Britain||Final Standings||2||1Â½ yds bh|
|1900 Summer||29||Paris||Athletics||Amateur Athletic Association||GBR||Final Standings||1||26 points||1||15:29.2|