This summer’s Olympics are due to start in just over four months time and it will be the third occasion that London has hosted the Games... becoming the first city to have held the modern Olympic Games on three separate occasions in the process.
The first was the IV Olympiad of 1908; probably best-remembered for the chaotic end to the marathon. The diminutive Italian Dorando Pietri was the first to enter the White City Stadium, but collapsed several times during the final lap of the track. He was helped to his feet by officials and crossed the line in the gold medal position, only to be disqualified for the assistance he received. The irony was that the length of the race had actually been extended to finish in front of the Royal Box but those extra 350 yards that were added took Pietri ten minutes to complete and clearly cost him his gold medal, albeit gained him a place in sporting folklore.
American Johnny Hayes who had finished behind Pietri was elevated to first place and the South African Charles Hefferon was promoted to the silver medal position. But Hefferon was not the only South African to win a medal at the 1908 Games...
South Africa first competed in the 1904 Olympics (held in St Louis, Missouri), but failed to win any medals. Four years later however, they achieved their first ever gold... and it came in the blue ribbon event, the men’s 100 metres.
The winner was Reginald Edgar Walker, who was known as “Reggie” whose victory came in a time of 10.8 seconds. Walker was not one of the more fancied competitors for the race; in fact he nearly didn’t make the Games at all; a journalist in his native Natal raised the funds to pay for his travel... however his Olympic record-equalling run was enough to beat America’s James Rector and Robert Kerr from Canada into the silver and bronze medal positions respectively.
The two reasons for highlighting Reggie Walker’s achievement are that at 19 years and 128 days he still remains the youngest man to win the 100m Olympic title and also today, 16th March, is his birthday. I would guess that you have never heard of Reggie Walker, but his amazing performance over a century ago... whilst still a teenager... certainly deserves to be remembered.
Reggie Walker (16th March 1889-5th November 1951)
All my own work... almost.