Billy Sherring

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Billy Sherring
William Sherring
Personal information
Birth name William John Sherring
Nationality Canadian
Born (1877-09-18)September 18, 1877
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Died September 5, 1964(1964-09-05) (aged 86)
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Height 5 ft 5 in (1.65 m)
Weight 119 lb (54 kg)
Sport Marathon
Retired 1906
Achievements and titles
Olympic finals

Billy Sherring (William John Sherring; September 18, 1877 – September 5, 1964) was a Canadian athlete of English and Irish descent, winner of the marathon race at the 1906 Intercalated Games (or 1906 Olympic Games, as they were at the time considered to be).

With Spyridon Louis, Athens, 1906
Plaque in Hamilton

In the early 1900s (decade), Billy Sherring from Hamilton, Ontario[1] was acknowledged to be a world class marathoner. He had won a second place behind a fellow countryman Jack Caffery at the Boston Marathon in 1900. He also had won the Hamilton Around the Bay Road Race on two occasions.

In 1906, Sherring – an athlete of St. Patrick's Athletic Club – was chosen to represent Canada in the Athens Olympic Games. However, it was left up to him, a working man with meager resources (he was a brakeman at the Grand Trunk Railway), to finance his journey to Athens. Sherring managed to collect an amount claimed to be between $45 and $90 (a clearly insufficient amount to travel to Athens), which he then bet on a horse named Cicely which won with good odds.[2] He arrived to Athens seven weeks before the Olympic Games and started to work as a porter at the Athens railway station.

At the marathon race, the 45 kg (99 lb) Sherring proceeded at a steady pace, at one point a half-mile behind the leaders, before taking the lead at about the fifteen mile mark and finishing seven minutes before the next runner.[3] Prince George of Greece[4] ran the last 50 metres of the marathon alongside Sherring. Sherring received a live lamb and a statue of Athena as a reward. When he returned to Canada, Hamilton City Council awarded him $5000 and the City of Toronto awarded him a further $400. Baron Pierre de Coubertin wrote a letter to the Governor General of Canada, Albert Grey, protesting the gifts as inconsistent with the Olympic ideal of "sport for sport's sake."[5] So far as is known, Sherring got to keep his money.

Upon his triumphant return from the marathon, Sherring quit athletics and worked as a customs officer in Hamilton until his retirement in 1942.

After his death, his original claim-to-fame, the Around the Bay Road Race was renamed to the Billy Sherring Memorial Road Race, and Hamilton has since built a Billy Sherring Park to commemorate their most famous athlete.

Sherring is thought he might have inspired the founders of Panathinaikos to adopt the shamrock as the Greek multi-sport club's official emblem.[6]


  1. ^ "Tigertown Triumphs" (Press release). The Hamilton Spectator-Memory Project (Souvenir edition). 2006-06-10. p. MP56. 
  2. ^ The story, while often cited, is open to dispute. Glynn Leyshon quotes an unnamed relative of Sherring's as stating that Sherring was a notoriously poor gambler and “never won anything in his life.” Leyshon, Glynn, “2nd International Olympic Games in Athens 1906: The Participating Countries – Canada,” Journal of Olympic History 14(3) Dec 2006, 30-33.
  3. ^ Martin, David E.; Gynn, Roger W.H. (2000). The Olympic Marathon. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics. p. 59. ISBN 0-88011-969-1. 
  4. ^ "The Olympic games at Athens, 1906". James E. Sullivan, American commissioner to the Olympic games. Published 1906.
  5. ^ "PROTEST ON MARATHON GIFTS. Restorer of Olympic Games Objects to Presents of Money to Sherring, Winner of Famous Race." Chicago Daily Tribune, July 29, 1906, p. 2.
  6. ^ "Five claims to fame: Panathinaikos".

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