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1908 London Olympics 100 m final

Sunday August 5, 2012

When the 1908 Olympians met in London, the Olympic record for the 100 m stood at 10.8 - set by the USA's Frank Jarvis in 1900 at Paris.  (Although the world record was 10.6, set in 1906 by Knut Lindberg of Sweden.  Lindberg was knocked out in the first round at London 1908.)

The British press expected the 1908 100m Olympic competition to be dominated by the top British sprinter of the day, John Morton, who had won the AAA championships for four years consecutively, 1904-7.  But he was out of form on the day.   After Morton, the favourite was Canadian Bobbie Kerr, who won the British championship and, according to the Sporting Life , 'ran so grandly that it was recognised on every hand that he would require heaps of beating.'


Two runners matched the standing Olympic record during the contest but in the final held in the stadium at 16.15 on the 22nd of July 1908, it was Reggie Walker, the young 1907 South African champion, who managed 10.8 when it mattered.    He beat the USA runner James Rector by one yard to win gold.

According to the Sporting Life, Rector's defeat 'did not surprise those of his friends who knew that his failing is nervousness.'

At 19 years, 128 days, at London 1908 Reggie Walker set the record that still stands, of being the youngest winner of the Olympic 100 meters.  5ft 7in tall, his weight was recorded as 9st 4lb on the day.  

Chosen for the South African Olympic team on 1st May of 1908, for a while it looked as if Walker, a bank clerk from Natal, wasn't going to be able to get to London because of lack of funds.   Jim Wallace, a Natal sportswriter, came to the rescue, starting a successful campaign to raise the funds that enabled Walker to make it to the White City stadium.

According to some sources, Reggie Walker was trained in part by Sam Mussabini, the trainer of Harold Abrahams, the runners featured in the film Charriots of Fire

On November 4, 1917, the New York Times reported that Walker had been wounded fighting in France, although he appears to have survived the war.

For those interested in the evolution of the times in the Olympic 100 m see


The Sporting Life account of the 1908 final:

Walker drew inside position, then came Rector (USA), and N J Cartmell (USA), Robert Kerr (Canada) being on the outside.   The pistol  was fired amidst a silence that could almost be felt.  Ever a quick starter, Walker was off the mark like a flash, and he at once drew clear of the rest, of whom Kerr was last away.   They bounded over the path at an extraordinary speed, and at the half distance Rector was just showing in front of Walker, with Cartmell and Kerr inches behind.  Then came a spurt from Walker that was simply electrifying.  He drew up to Rector, and the American, after striding abreast for a second, gave way before the determined rush of the Colonial, who shot along and broke the worsted, a winner by a long yard.  Kerr was only inches behind Rector, and Cartmell was practically on top of the Canadian.




















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Reggie Walker's Gold Medal

Reggie Walker was my Granny's Cousin.

From: Margaret Lowe, Monday November 16, 2015