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UK Athletics

Gordon pirie

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Gordon Pirie

Full Name: Douglas Alistair Gordon Pirie.

Date of Birth: 10 February 1931 

Died: 7 December 1991 Lymington, Hampshire

Born: Leeds. .

Club: South London Harriers.

Coach: Waldemar Gershlar.

Career summary
One Of The Best

In 1955, Gordon Pirie was named as the second BBC Sports Personality Of The Year, 12 months after the show had been launched when Sir Chris Chataway won the honour. There was no Championships in that year, but for success, it was a monumental time because on three occasions he beat the legendary Czechoslovakian distance runner Emil Zatopek, the triple gold medallist from the Olympic Games in Helsinki in 1952. Zatopek has been his hero, his inspiration, and to have triumphed against the man whom he watched with such awe during the Olympics in London in 1948, was something special. 

Tough Training

Pirie helped revolutionise attitudes to hard training. Often he would put in more than 200 miles a week, which in the 1950s was a rarity, but it worked because this Leeds-born distance runner set five world records. He had finished fourth in a famous 5000m at the Olympics in 1952, when Zatopek was in the middle of his treble glory of this event, the 10,000m, which he had won already, and then the marathon. Pirie did not look set for fourth place as the race entered the home turn but his British teammate Chataway, who was leading, tripped. As Zatopek won in an Olympic record of 14:06.6, Pirie recorded 14:18.0, the same time as Chataway, who staggered back onto his feet to make it home. He would be back.The next Olympics in Melbourne were not until the end of 1956. The first of his world record landmarks came on July 10, when at the AAA Championships at White City, he ran 28.19.4 before returning there on September 23 for an Invitation international where he was part of the 4 x 1500m relay team which recorded 15:27.2. Pirie ran the third leg in the quartet of Ralph Dunkley, David Law and Bill Nankeville, but then he went aboard to set his next three world bests. They all came in 1959. The first of these was in Bergen on June 19 when he ran the 5000m in 25 seconds than his best to record 13:36.8 , beating Vladimir Kuts, of the Soviet Union, who was second in 13:39.6, with both men beating the old mark of 13:40.6. Echoes here of the Coe-Ovett world record spell in 1981, because three days later at Trondheim, Pirie ran the 3000m in 7:55.6, a time which he improved to 7:52.7 in Malmö on September 4. The Olympics were drawing closer.


Second In Melbourne

Pirie was among the gold medal candidates for the 10,000m because he had beaten the favourite and, now world record-holder, Kuts. It was an epic race. Pirie stuck with him and after 3000m and the two became locked in an amazing duel. Every time Kuts tired to break away, Pirie would hit back and on occasions the Russian even tried to wave him past. Kuts then slowed and Pirie was in front with five laps left but it was tactics which did not work for the Britain. Kuts enjoyed the chance to regain his power and burst away. Pirie had gone as far as he could and though the Russian was away, the field closed in on the man left in second. Kuts won by almost seven seconds in an Olympic record of 28:45.6, with Pirie eventually only eighth in 29:49.6. Five days later came re-match in the 5000m, but it was never as dramatic as Kuts went in front early on and was never caught. Yet a great moment for Pirie as he won Olympic silver. Kuts had broken the tape in 13:39.6, another Olympic record, from Pirie, second in 13:50.6, beating his British teammate Derek Ibbotson, who was third in 13:54.4. It was an important year in his life because he married the British sprinter Shirley Hampton.

Domestic Bliss

In 1958, Pirie was third in the 5000m at the European Championships in Berne and fourth at the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Cardiff at both One and Three Miles respectively. But domestically, his career record was immense. He was the winner of the first Emsley Carr Mile in 4:06.8 in 1953 and he set 24 British records at distances from 2000m to 10,000m, and excelled at cross-country, at which he was English National champion between 1953 and 1955. He became a professional athlete for a while and coached in Britain and in New Zealand and also he won the first two British titles at orienteering in 1967 and 1968. A man of so many talents.


International Championships

1952: 4th 5000m Olympics

1953 19th International CC

1956: 2nd 5000m, 8th 10000m Olympics

1958: 4th 1M & 3M Commonwealth Games; 3rd 5000m Europeans

1960: ht 5000m, 10th 10000m Olympics

UK Internationals: 22 (1951-61)

National Championships

Won AAA 3M 1963, 1961; 6M 1951-3, 1960; National CC 1953-5.

Personal bests

880y 1:53.0 (1954), 1500m 3:42.5 (1961), 1M 3:59.9 (1960), 2000m 5:09.8 (1955), 3000m 7:52.7 (1956), 2M 8:38.8 (1959), 3M 13:16.4 (1961), 5000m 13:36.8 (1956), 6M 28:09.6 (1960), 10,000m 29:15.2 (1960), 15M 1:20:57.0 (1955), 20M 1:48:13 (1955), 2 Hours 35,659m (1955), 3000m steeplechase 9:06.6 (1958)