- Eric Henry Liddell (1902-1945)
One of Scotland's greatest athletes, Eric Liddell was born in Tientsin in China, the son of Scottish parents. It was while he was attending Edinburgh University to study Science and Divinity that his talent for running came to light. He won the 100 yards and the 220 yards for five successive years at the Scottish Athletic Championships. His best time for the 100 yards was 9.7 seconds, a British record which stood for 35 years. He also played rugby for Scotland seven times.
But it was his adherence to his strongly held religious principles which enhanced his reputation. Selected to run for Britain in the 100 metres in the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris, he found that the heats were scheduled for a Sunday. He refused to run. Instead, he preached at the Church of Scotland in the Rue Bayard in Paris. Although his best distance was the 100 metres, he ran instead in the 400 metres and won the gold medal, breaking the world record with a time of 47.6 seconds. He also won the bronze medal in the 200 metres. He gave the secret of his success as "I run the first 200 metres as fast as I can. Then, with God's help, I run harder."
When he graduated at Edinburgh University in the following year, the Principal insisted on crowning him with olive leaves. Unimpressed by the adulation, Liddell became a missionary in China and worked conscientiously spreading Christianity there. He got caught up in the Sino-Japanes war and was imprisoned by the Japanese. He died in an internment camp at Weifeng in Shandong province on 21 1945. A monument to his memory was unveiled there in 1991.
His athletic prowess and his principles became the subject of the film "Chariots of Fire" in which the part of Liddell was played by the Scots actor Ian Charleson. Much of the shooting for the film was carried out in Scotland and the film won four Oscars, including that for "Best Film" in 1982.
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