George McNeill was a footballer and sprinter who became the only man to win both of the world’s most famous professional footraces.
Born in the East Lothian mining town of Tranent in 1947, he soon become a lightning-quick footballer and rugby player who joined Hibernian FC as an apprentice while still in his fifth year of school.
After a solitary senior appearance in the green jersey, he went on to play for Greenock Morton and Stirling Albion, making a total of 17 first-team appearances and scoring five goals.
However, his life changed in December 1968 when an old school friend entered him in the famous New Year Sprint at Musselburgh Racecourse. After making the semi-finals of the 110m race, George enjoyed the experience so much he retired from football to take up a sprinting career.
Because he’d been paid wages as a footballer, the rules of the time meant he was ineligible to enter amateur events, quashing his dreams of Olympic glory.
However, he trained hard and flourished on the professional circuit, winning the 1970 New Year Sprint in 11.61secs. The same year he broke the world professional 110m record, setting a fastest time of 11.14secs.
Further success followed and, in 1972, he was crowned world professional sprint champion after winning three of four races against USA Olympic champion Tommie Smith at Wakefield rugby ground.
George also competed abroad on the professional circuit and made three consecutive finals of Australia’s famous Stawell Gift race. In 1981, aged 34, he ran brilliantly to win at his ninth attempt in a time of 11.9secs. To this day he remains the oldest winner of the race.
After retiring from the track he took up sprint coaching in the 1980s and also trained football teams, including Hearts and Livingston.
Honour your hero