A website dedicated to athletics literature / from 1920 to 1950

Tom Hampton

The period 1920-1950 saw an explosion of books on coaching in the United Kingdom and the USA. F. A. M. Webster was by far the most prolific of the authors, producing book after book and a host of pamphlets and articles.

Alas, the environment within which Webster coached was far from matching that within which his American counterparts operated and his works therefore lacked the hard practical edge of those written by Dink Templeton and Dean Cromwell.

The other English athletics literature of this period came primarily from Oxbridge and was frequently composite works, written by athletes or ex-athletes. Here, events like triple jump, pole vault and hammer were often ignored, sometimes with the observation that they were unimportant. The plain fact was that few of the English writers knew very much about them.

It is difficult, at this distance, to understand why there was such a torrent of technical athletics books in Great Britain during this period. One reason may have been the return from the Great War of working-class servicemen for whom their time in the Forces had been their first experience of sport. Another was the growth of physical education within the state system, accentuated by the creation of teacher-training colleges such as Loughborough and Carnegie. But these colleges did not exist until the 1930s, and do not explain the volume of books written a decade earlier. And, though the National Playing Fields Association had been formed in 1925, there is little evidence of NPFA interest in athletics; their priority was team games.

It is easier to explain the rapid development of American technical literature.  American sports scholarships seem to have begun in the period immediately following the Great War, and were centred mainly in American football, replacing a corrupt system of “ringers” recruited from the proletariat.

It is remarkable that as early as the final quarter of the 19th century a well-structured competitive system had emerged in most American college sports. This was at first most strongly expressed on the Eastern seaboard, in the Ivy League universities. It was reflected most intensely in American football, a sport which had been derived from rugby union by a college coach, Walter Camp. By 1906, the number of deaths in college football required the intervention of President Roosevelt.

These universities had initially taken their cultural lead directly from Oxbridge, deploying sport as an educational tool, but soon the American competitive ethic won out, and universities were using drugs and playing “ringers” in their football teams. These players were often burly sons of toil from the factories and docks of the East Coast; some played under nom de plumes whilst others were given false university registrations. The drugs were mainly pain-killers, deployed during football games.

 There was therefore an unethical element within the college system from the outset.  When sports scholarships arrived in the 1920s, it took a different but equally aberrant course, as the Carnegie Reports in the late Twenties make abundantly clear. For college coaches now scoured the nation for players, faking their educational qualifications, paying off parents and pressuring academic colleagues to lower their entry standards. The Carnegie Reports are scathing in their assessment of the college sports culture of the 1920s.

Although the Carnegie Reports were not centred on athletics, they described a culture of which athletics was a part, if only because many of the scholarship footballers became athletes in the summer. The Reports were written by eminent scholars who expressed their deep regret at the path that college sport had now taken; but they were helpless in the face of relentless pressure from alumni, and the economics of university funding.

 Sports scholarships, and the competitive system which they serviced, soon produced a corps of professional coaches, men like Lawson Robertson, Dink Templeton and Dean Cromwell. It also resulted in the first specialist athletics booklets, in the form of the Spalding series of the mid 1920s.

These are exceptional works, the product of such coaches as Dink Templeton (high jump) and Henry Schulte (pole vault). They represent the fruits of a high volume of practical coaching, and of experience within an intense competitive environment. Templeton had only narrowly failed on a technicality to make the 1920 American Olympic team in high jump, but had scraped into it in long jump and had been a goal-kicking member of their winning Olympic rugby team. Schulte had pursued a successful coaching career at Nebraska University and was coach to the 1928 Olympic team.

Both books are, like the Achilles series, composite works, but nothing characterises the differences between athletics in the USA and Great Britain more than the Spalding series and their British counterparts; for the American manuals throb with ambition and energy. “The author suggests that a prospective vaulter reads this book six times - then put the book away for a month. Go out and vault six feet until you can’t miss. Raise the bar to eight feet. Work on that until you are sure of it…………… Keep at it! Keep at it! Keep at it!”

But a major problem with any composite work on a single event is the sheer diversity of advice, some of it understandably conflicting. And lack of sequence-diagrams forces the Spalding writers into long, convoluted explanations. Behind all the works of this period lies lack of any biomechanical basis; that was over thirty years away. And there is at this point little advice on training.

Experience is something that you get about fifteen minutes after you needed it. The American literature pulses with practical experience within a strong competitive culture; alas, its British counterpart does not, simply because that culture did not exist. Supply creates demand. And an Oxbridge university culture in which athletics was a winter sport, a harrier culture which had little interest in anything outside of running, and a weak state school competitive system, produced little demand for coaching. So, though athletics ended for most Americans when they left university, what they were offered prior to that was sufficient to see the USA dominate world athletics until after the Second World War.

This being said, there is surprisingly little mention of competition in the American coaching literature of the period, a singular exception being Dean Cromwell’s “Championship Track and Field Athletics”. It is, however, worth observing that Cromwell makes no mention of his experience as American team coach to the 1936 Olympic team. And none of the American coaches makes any reference to lack of adult competition in the USA.

County associations appeared in Britain in the 1920s, but there was no sudden rush of inter-county competition, and inter-club competition was confined to the major clubs.   On the other hand, international competition developed strongly with the appearance of the European Championships and Commonwealth Games in the 1930s. But none of this revived the British interest in performance that had briefly surfaced back in 1913 with the Westminster initiative.

At this distance, it can be seen that the Westminster initiative was merely a reflex response to failure in Stockholm in 1912; for there is no evidence that any of the £9,000 raised for Olympic preparation was ever deployed for the purpose for which it was originally intended. The funds raised were almost certainly slipped into the coffers of the British Olympic Committee.

This 1920-1950 period therefore saw little change in the UK in the areas of coaching or international athlete - preparation. Strangely, for the latter it was little different in the USA. There, the AAU simply relied on the strength of its college system, one which was able to consistently produce success at Olympic level. Changes did however take place in the 1930s, when scholarships were given to black athletes, but even Jesse Owens was not allowed to live on campus and had to undertake a series of menial jobs to support his family. That was to change, albeit slowly, after a war against racist Nazis in which the USA fielded segregated regiments.  

Historical material was meagre, the main exception being Gardiner’s magnificent final work “Athletics of the Ancient World” in 1930. McCombie Smith’s “Athletes and Athletic Sports of Scotland” was to remain the best direct account of a Games culture which understandably struggled to recover after the carnage of the Great War.  This being said, even in 1934 we find Scottish athletes tossing cabers and throwing hammers at Hackney Wick before big crowds. Alas, there is no account in the literature of the rich culture of the Scottish Border Games. There never would be. It is therefore unlikely that we will ever have the same direct knowledge of them as we have of the Highland Games.

 Pedestrianism now had to compete for space with greyhound racing, and was fading fast, though surviving in patches in Wales, Kent and northern England and in Scotland’s Powderhall Handicap. Match-racing disappeared for good in the early thirties, and the big Carnival events survived only in Australia. There, unlike in Britain, State Associations had provided both a structure and an ethical framework. So, alas, the literature of the period contains little mention of the Scot Bill McFarlane, almost certainly the equal of Eric Liddell, who had dead-heated in a 100m in 10.3 seconds with his friend Olympic champion Eddie Tolan in Australia in 1934.

Even Webster, in his historical works, still tended to ignore the feats of professional athletes. Thus there is little mention of the greatest athlete of the 19th century, the Scot Donald Dinnie, who was the first thrower to put beyond 15m., and probably the first man to clear six feet in high jump; and the best all-round wrestler of his time. Similarly, there is no mention of the Australian Donaldson’s remarkable 21.1 secs on grass in a handicap 220 yards in Glasgow in 1913 or of Harry Hutchen’s marvellous 30 seconds for 300 yards in midwinter in a Powderhall handicap in 1884. No, these men and many like them were simply written out of the history of athletics, even by someone as liberal as Webster.

But, mercifully, we do have David Jamieson’s “Powderhall and Pedestrianism”, a detailed account of professional footracing from the late 19th century till the onset of the Second World War. I had the good fortune to meet with Jamieson in 1956 but was, alas, too immature to ask him anything of value and, when he died, all of his records perished with him.

Jamieson’s book provides us with the clearest picture of British pedestrianism that we are ever likely to possess. He offers a detailed account of every Powderhall event since their inception and with it some idea of the world of professional athletics beyond Powderhall, albeit a less comprehensive one.

 His book was, because of wartime publishing-regulations, a limited edition and is therefore extremely rare. It shows that, by the nineteen-thirties, professional match-racing had vanished. I knew Alan Scally, who had in 1929 competed at Glasgow’s White City greyhound track in a ten mile race against Cole of Hereford, in what was to be the last long-distance match of the 20th century. Scally became trainer to my club Shettleston Harriers in 1933, at a yearly “honorarium” of £10. A year later, he joined some of his charges in a winter training-run. This resulted, only a few days later, in a sharp reprimand from the Scottish Amateur Athletic Association, warning the club that any repeat of this activity would result in suspension. One wonders what would have occurred if Scally had simply engaged in a friendly walk with his harriers.

Jamieson’s book also makes it clear that by this time professional athletics was, Powderhall apart, a summer sport, existing in Highland, Lakeland and Border Games. Greyhound - racing had wiped pedestrianism from the map as a regular betting-option for the working man and attempts to hold meetings in major Scottish towns in the industrial belt met with failure. In 1923, the Scottish National Sports Association was formed, with regional offices, but the times they were a changing, and it was dissolved in 1929 for lack of public interest. It was not until after the War that the Scot Tom Young formed the Scottish Games Association, embracing both Powderhall and Highland and Border Games, and a similar association was created in the Lake District. But the SGA was simply a body of meeting-organisers, with no developmental aims.

 F. A. M.Webster was undoubtedly the most prolific technical writer on athletics in the 1920-1950 period and this is to ignore his main literary endeavours, which lay in the field of boys’ fiction. If we add to this his work on Olympic Reports, and his regimental and public school histories, Webster must have been one of the most industrious writers of his era, producing at least three books a year, and a host of articles and pamphlets.

Webster’s problem, in his technical manuals, was that he did not work with athletes of high quality, or within an intense competitive system, as did his counterparts in the USA. And, similarly, the British state school sports system was in no way the equivalent of its highly competitive American high school counterpart. Out of snow you can’t make cheesecake.

 So Webster was singing arias to the deaf. He was notably discreet in his observations on the conservative nature of British governing bodies, and it was only in 1933 that he finally managed to convince the Amateur Athletic Association to fund a Summer Coaching School at Loughborough University. The composition of the course was mainly Public School teachers, Army instructors and athletes, with few if any of his course-members coming from clubs. The volume of athletes who arrived forced Webster to conduct separate programmes for athletes and coaches in his 1934 course.

Webster’s greatest triumph lay in his creation of the Loughborough School of Sports and Games in 1936. It is not, at this distance, clear why Webster’s course did not achieve the same official status as Carnegie or Jordanhill.

But his Loughborough venture was nevertheless destined to provide the United Kingdom with its first National Coaches in the post-war period, men like Geoff Dyson, John le Masurier and Denis Watts. Of these, the most important was Dyson, who between 1947 and 1962 created a National Coaching Programme which became the envy of the Western world.

In 1948, now approaching the end of a life of dedication to athletics, F. A. M. Webster arrived at the British Olympic training camp at RAF Uxbridge to offer his assistance to the British squad (which had no professional coach-support-team), only to be denied entry. Much later, in 1966, I visited his son F.R. Webster, to collect his father’s library of athletics books, many of which were ultimately to form the basis of this Athlos website. I asked F. R. Webster his opinion of the AAA officials with whom his father had worked.

“Bastards”, was Webster’s immediate response “Bastards”,

It is easy, of course, with the benefit of hindsight, to be dismissive of the half-century celebrations of the AAA and SCAAA, as expressed in two books, ”Fifty Years of Progress” and “Fifty Years of Athletics”.

For all through each work runs the belief that amateurism was a religion, and that professional athletics was invariably some sort of heresy. It is perhaps understandable that the Scots might shrink from pedestrianism, an element of which had been corrupt, but this was to ignore the Powderhall Handicap, which had always observed high ethical standards. And it meant shunning Scotland’s unique contribution to the sport, the Highland Games. These were far from corrupt, and had indeed been the source of much of modern athletics, both here and in the USA. But neither version of professional athletics, though it offered money prizes, had ever been in any sense a profession, and it is ironic that the lairds who supported Highland Games with such enthusiasm were often the products of Eton and Harrow.

“Fifty Years of Progress” now reads rather like a cosy public school class-re-union. There is no mention of coaching or of national performance in the Olympic Games; no mention either of the place of athletics within the state school system. And not a word about the Duke of Westminster’s performance programme of 1913, or the short-lived appointment as National Coach of the Scot W. R. Knox.

But there is always H. B. Stallard; “It is, at the moment, impossible to prophesy how far feminine athletic prowess will go….. I believe that training and judicious competition will widen a women’s outlook, teach her the value of team spirit, and help to make her a pleasant companion”.

There is, strangely, a brief mention of coaching in the Scottish anniversary book “Fifty Years of Athletics”, a project which involved the appointment of four “trainers” in 1923, but there is no record of it after that date. It also reveals that in 1930 the Scots had attempted to establish a separate relationship with the IAAF, one which ultimately resulted in the formation of the British Amateur Athletic Board. Four years later occurred the occasion when  Alan Scally, the trainer at Shettleston Harriers, a former professional athlete, went out for a jog with some of the club’s runners. A week later, Shettleston were warned that any repeat of this activity would result in its suspension. Such was progress.

It is clear from both books that British governing bodies did not see themselves as developmental agencies, and here America’s AAU, lacking the club-base of British athletics, was in essence little different. There, the AAU’s big advantage was the college system, which produced a host of Olympic medals, enough to make up for the fact that adult athletics had little existence in the USA.

In both nations, the task of the governing bodies was to regulate. Thus, England did not have a complete championship programme until 1917, and it was not until 1938 that the triple jump, that most Celtic of events, was included in the programme of the Scottish championships; and as late as 1960 before decathlon was finally included. Similarly, all British governing bodies dragged their feet on the acceptance of women’s athletics, which appeared from nowhere after the Great War. Women were therefore inevitably forced into forming their own governing bodies, and even, in the post-war period, their own phantom coaching schemes.

Things had taken a different course in women’s athletics in the USA, where in 1932 their women’s sports associations had taken the de Coubertin line and proposed no involvement in the Los Angeles Games other than a social one. Fortunately, the AAU intervened and made certain that American women were represented in the Games, thus enabling the great “Babe” Didrikson to win four medals. Women’s athletics had been embraced by the AAU as early as 1923, though with a limited programme, one similar to that offered by the IOC in the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics. It is nevertheless worth noting that the AAU record-book of 1946 features a women’s triple jump record by Margaret Whitcombe just short of 11metres, and a baseball throw of over 90 metres by Babe Didrikson, who went on to become the greatest woman golfer of her era.  The Americans offered their women a much greater range of events than Great Britain, including a baseball throw, a basketball throw and the standing jumps.

Where American women’s athletics differed from its male counterpart was in the source of its athletes for there is no evidence of much opportunity for women in American colleges. Even as late as 1946, no AAU victors came from colleges, but from a mixture of State clubs, women’s institutes, companies, ethnic associations and even swimming clubs. And it is far from clear what local competition was available for American women at that time.

 Given the essentially conservative nature of British governing bodies, it is not perhaps surprising that no strong relationships were built with central or local government, with colleges of Physical Education, or schools associations. But it is possibly more surprising that there was still no attempt by British governing bodies to press their handicap meetings to feature jumps, throws and hurdles. This meant that the only groups regularly exposed to these events were the Forces, the Public schools and Universities, rather than the clubs which the governing bodies claimed to represent. And this is to ignore that fact that for Oxbridge and the Public schools athletics was essentially a winter sport.

It is tempting, when surveying the faces of the douce-bourgeoisie who presided over British athletics in this period, to be contemptuous of their complacency, their self-satisfaction. Few of them had come from field events, few had given the slightest thought to coaching or performance, no one appeared to be concerned that the full athletics programme had been denied to most of their constituents.

But they were men of their time, and their equivalents were to be found in every British sport of that period and indeed beyond it. Their attitudes were to be reflected in weak British performances at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, and later in the 1948 London Games. And their successors were to prove a barrier to the work of Dyson and his colleagues in the period following the creation of the National Coaching Scheme in 1947, and for many years beyond that.

Harrier clubs had attracted to their ranks athletic young men from the working classes who had failed to achieve in what was then a vast network of football clubs. These  were in Boys Brigades, Scouts, youth clubs and even at village and street-level. The harrier had often failed to gain entry, but still retained physical ambitions.

The harrier clubs directly reflected these ambitions, the needs of their members, housed in huts perched on the fringe of industrial towns. These ambitions did not include field events, of which their members had little or no experience. The handicap-based summer meetings which constituted the main diet of adult athletes outside of universities was therefore a direct reflection of the needs of harrier clubs. And, when their officials moved up to regional and national committees, they saw no great need for change.

 What might have been done? Simply to have required a quota of hurdles/ field events from each registered meeting, thus ensuring competitive opportunities for all throughout the entire athletics programme. Entries would have been initially weak, but this quota-based programme could have been supplemented by Webster- type coaching courses at local level. Without supply there is no demand.

It is still worth considering athletics outside the amateur system. For even at this late date, even with the decimation of the adult male population in the Scottish Highlands as a result of the Great War, Highland Games still offered the only all-round expression of track and field athletics , even if in a slightly different range of events. Even the remnants of the Border Games offered more athletic opportunity in their localities than the Scottish amateur system. For as late as 1933, Scotland had only one registered amateur club in the Highlands and four in the South.

It is also worth observing that athletics still had little existence within state education, wedded as it was to Ling gymnastics rather than sport in its P. E. programme. For, though the 1930s had seen the creation of training programmes for male P. E. teachers, politicians and educationists agonised throughout the decade over the value of Ling in terms of “ posture”, ignoring the fact that the independent sector had long since rejected therapeutic gymnastics in favour of games.  The experience of athletics for children within t state schools was therefore sparse. That, linked with a harrier-based club system, meant that Britain’s athletics culture was desperately weak.

Local authorities, though they had in 1846 triggered the provision of both facilities and instruction in the creation of municipal swimming pools, and had been enjoined by government in 1906 to provide playing fields, had rarely attempted to provide athletics tracks. Nothing in the formal literature tells us that they did so during this period, though it is likely that municipal track-building may have begun immediately prior to World War Two. But most of the tracks built in the 1850-1940 period had been running-tracks built for pedestrian events, facilities like Powderhall, which was sometimes used by the Scottish amateurs for their Championships.

This conservative governing body culture was little different in the USA, where AAU handbooks reveal a coterie of worthies, businessmen alumnis of East Coast universities, dedicated firmly to the status quo, but bolstered by a vibrant college system over which they had little control. This was one which continued to produce not only great athletes, but also high-quality indoor and outdoor facilities, within a superb competitive structure. But even as late as 1946 the AAU did not appear to represent the entire forty eight states, and East Coast states were still strongly in the ascendance.

 And there had developed in these colleges a legion of tough, seat of the pants college coaches who, supported by a strong competitive structure, produced successive generations of outstanding athletes. And the 1930s had also seen the college recruitment of black athletes (though not always scholarships), enriching the base from which these coaches operated.

But there are, alas, singularly few books written during this period which reveal the nature of these great coaches. Here, no British coaches ever referred directly to athletes they had coached, and none expressed any opinion of the environment within which they worked. The best of the American books is “Sweeney of the Hill”, describing the work as a coach of the great high jumper Mike Sweeney at the Hill, an East Coast American prep school. Sweeney was not only an outstanding coach, but a great educator, a moulder of young men. And there is also “Championship Track and Field”, essentially a technical work by Dean Cromwell, but one which reveals something of the nature of this great coach. “I call all my guys “champ”, and some of them believe me”.

Sports science plays little part in the literature of this period and any which existed had little link with practical coaching. Technical development was fitful and uneven and training of any intensity in the technical events was well over a decade away. It is worth observing that in the 1936 Olympic high jump every flight-technique which had existed up to that point was still on display, including the frontal back lay-out used by Brooks to clear six feet back in 1876. And Olympic shot-putters were still deploying the same side-on technique as Scottish athletes had used in the early years of the 19th century.

None of the books of the period reflect on the modern history of the Olympic Games, and none reflect on such issues as national performance, leaving with us the discussions in 1913 on the aims of the Westminster programme. Only in Olympic Reports do we get some hint of such areas as national preparations, and the 1908 Olympic Report makes it clear that several European nations were already providing their athletes with support, in terms of travel and broken-time payments. And the 1912 Olympic Report makes it clear that the Swedish team had been in full-time preparation from the spring of 1912 until the Games. This was in direct contravention of amateur rules, but nothing was done to bring the Swedish Federation to account, and this was repeated in 1936, when many German athletes were employed in government- positions.

And it was too early for the literature to reflect on the issues raised by the 1936 Olympic Games; such writings were over thirty years away. There is thus no mention of the mere one and a half AAU votes that avoided boycott of the 1936 Olympic Games. Or for that matter that the AA had voted ninety nine to one to go to Berlin.

American sports scholarships, the shamateurism of Sweden in 1912 and Nazi Germany in 1936, all of this was to be repeated and magnified in the post-war period, with the entry of the Communist bloc. British resistance to any form of preparation for international performance would, alas, continue until deep into the second half of the century.  But scholars and journalists would soon begin to focus their thoughts upon athletics, and sports scientists would vigorously apply themselves to it, although it would be athletes who would continue to be the primary source of new athletics techniques.

It is not the purpose of this review to stray much beyond the English-speaking world, but a 1946 IAAF Handbook may serve to provide some slight glimpse of the world beyond. It is a slim document, representing the evolutional point which athletics had reached in the period prior to the second World War. This was a time before television and sponsors, and the IAAF was based in Europe and relied on the energy of a handful of volunteers; indeed, it was required that the Secretary and the Chairman come from the same country.

Total subscriptions from member countries totalled £164, based on £10 per year from major nations and £6 from the minor ones. Any other income would have derived mainly from income from the European Championships.

The rules of athletics occupy less than fifty pages, and doping takes up a mere twenty three words. The amateur rules require four pages. “An amateur must not compete for any prize… which cannot be suitably inscribed with words or letters commemorative of the event. Prizes must not be of a character which can be possessed or retained for the period of the life of the competitor.” Alas, it is far from clear how this last requirement could be fulfilled..

It is surprising to find the rules of long-past events in the 1946 Handbook. Thus we find the standing high jump, and the Hellenic discus throw. And suddenly there appears the 83 metre hurdles race for women, clearly aimed at alternate leg clearance, but we have no evidence that this event ever took place. Similarly, we have the decathlon/pentathlon ruling on false starts which declares that after two false starts the decathlete suffers a 1/100 of the distance handicap.

The 1946 AAU handbook throws up similar surprises, showing that Celtic events like the standing jumps and the 56lb. weight for height had lingered in their National championships for many years. More surprisingly, it contains detailed rules for such events as the sack race and the three-legged race. The 1906 11 second hundred yards AAU  record for rhe three-legged race by Hillman and Robertson will surely stand for all time.

The competitive results recorded in the 1946 AAU Handbook show that the derivation of most of their senior champions was from colleges, the armed forces and multi- sports clubs such as New York A.C. There is no sign of any track and field club in the European sense.

Three thousand miles away, even Webster at no point hints that there is any disparity of opportunity between the social classes, that the majority of the British population were thus indefinitely doomed to be unrepresented at the Olympic Games. Any scrutiny of the medallists at national schools championships of the period will immediately note the absence of children of the working classes. Scottish Schools Championships lists in “The First Fifty Years” show not a single child from such a background. This situation was to be transformed in the post-war period.

For the sport represented two quite distinct groups, with overlapping but distinct interests. The first were the harriers, the denizens of the industrial towns, dedicated primarily to distance-running. The second was Oxbridge, the universities and the independent schools, for whom athletics was, in the main, a minor sport. Neither was at this point driven by any impulse to provide a comprehensive track and field culture to all, regardless of class.

But fortunately there was government intervention, immediately prior to the War, in the creation of the National Fitness Council. This was, less than a decade later, to become the Central Council of Physical Recreation. And when, in 1947, the AAA appointed Webster’s protégé G.H. G. Dyson as National Coach, the CCPR was to provide essential support to him in the administration of coaching courses.

Dyson, a self-educated man, had swiftly risen to the rank of Major in the War, and soon brought on board other graduates of Loughborough in John le Masurier and Denis Watts. His mentor, F.A. M. Webster died in 1949.

Thus, though the American athletics landscape saw little change in the immediate post-war period, its British counterpart undoubtedly did. As a result, a different kind of technical literature would soon emerge, one more rooted in practical experience, for Dyson insisted that a fraction of he and his coaches’ time would be devoted to coaching. And state schools would now employ specialist P.E. teachers, and local authorities would build athletics tracks.

But the creation of a trained body of voluntary coaches would prove to be far from easy for Dyson and his colleagues. For they faced a deeply conservative harrier mentality, and with it the dying remnants of an effete Oxbridge culture resistant to a serious approach to athletics training. And the cult of the amateur was still alive and kicking. In 1946, the USSR, which had lost over twenty million of its adult population in the War, suddenly appeared at the 1946 European Championships. A unique form of state-sponsored athlete would soon emerge to challenge the USA. With it would come a more rigorous analysis of athletics training and technique, and the rapid growth of sports science. In 1952, the USSR entered the Olympic Games for the first time, and nothing would ever be the same.

Tom McNab/2014