Wyndham Halswelle – the gold medal winner who raced against himself in the 400m final at the 1908 Olympics – The British Newspaper Archive Blog

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Wyndham Halswelle – the gold medal winner who raced against himself in the 400m final at the 1908 Olympics

London-born Wyndham Halswelle was a competitor in one of the most amazing (and surreal!) Olympic events – the 400m final of the 1908 Olympics. In this event, Wyndham Halswelle won the gold medal in a race that had no other runners.

The reason for the occurrence of this most strangest of races, was the total absence of uniform rules that then existed. For prior to the rules in the Olympics being standardised, many of the countries had different sets of sporting laws (and behaviour!). The result, predictably enough, was that some of the events were chaotic.

In the first 400m final that took place, Halswelle was obstructed, jostled and elbowed by the three Americans – there were no separate lanes on the running track in those days. In disgust at this rough gamesmanship, a British official broke the finishing tape and the race was declared void.

In the USA, however, jostling and obstructing was allowed and was viewed as part of the natural #rough and tumble’ of the sport. So when one of the Americans was disqualified, the remaining two American runners simply refused to take part in the re-run. The British press talked of ‘bad form, while the American newspapers reported that the British had robbed their runner of the gold medal.

Thus, Halswelle was the only one left in the race. The re-run of the race went ahead and, unsurprisingly, Halswelle won the gold medal – although he didn’t really want to run the race by himself.

Poignantly, Lieutenant Halswelle died on the Western Front in 1915, while serving in the Highland Light Infantry. ‘Quem di diligunt adulescens moritur.’

There are 100s of interesting stories about the Olympics and Olympians  in the British Newspaper Archive.

newspaper story about the gold medal won by Wyndham Halswelle at the 1908 Olympics in London

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette – Monday 27 July 1908

Image © Northcliffe Media Limited. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

http://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000511/19080727/021/0004

newspaper story about the death of Olympic champion, Wyndham Halswelle

Western Times – Wednesday 15 September 1915

Image © Northcliffe Media Limited. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

http://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000265/19150915/007/0002

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