The Achilles Club is a track and field club formed in 1920 by and for past and present representatives of Oxford and Cambridge Universities. Members have won 19 Olympic Gold Medals (most recently Steph Cook in 2000), and held 38 World Records. One of its founding members was Evelyn Montague, who is immortalized in the 1981 film Chariots of Fire.
In the amateur age between the World Wars, the Achilles Club was the strongest amateur athletic organization in Britain. Its members enjoyed more opportunity for training than most, and made up the greater part of the British Olympic team. Champions like Harold Abrahams, David Burghley, and Jack Lovelock (New Zealand) were household names, and they supported the Club’s regular exhibition matches against schools throughout the country, to encourage the growth of the sport. Very popular books passing on their expertise were published, and members contributed at the highest national and international level as coaches, promoters, and administrators.
After the Second World War, Achilles athletes remained prominent. Roger Bannister’s achievements captured the imagination of the whole world; Chris Chataway was the darling of the White City; and Chris Brasher won Olympic gold in Melbourne. By then, however, more clubs were forming as tracks were constructed around Britain. Participation in athletics soared, and with it standards of performance, while at the Universities academic pressures assumed a greater significance.
Nevertheless, the Achilles Club still thrives. In recent years Club teams have competed in China, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Australia, South Africa, Germany, Estonia, Finland, Italy and France. The continuing series of reciprocal matches against Harvard, Yale, and other U.S. Ivy League Universities, which predate the modern Olympic Games, celebrated its centenary in 1995. Members like Mara Yamauchi, Andy Baddeley, Jon Ridgeon, Craig Masback (USA), Julian Goater and Richard Nerurkar continue to make their mark on the world stage, both as competitors and as administrators.
- Evelyn Montague – Biography at Sports-Reference.com
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