Renowned as one of Scotland’s finest athletes, Wyndham Halswelle is still the only British man to have won gold, silver and bronze in individual Olympic events.
Born in London in 1882, his first athletics success of note came in 1904 when he was Army champion for the 800m. In 1905, he won the Scottish and Amateur Athletic Association 400m titles before going on to win 400m silver and 800m bronze in the 1906 Intercalated Olympics in Athens.
Wyndham – who served in the Highland Light Infantry – was also noted for the incredible victories gained at the 1906 Scottish Championships, where he won the 100m, 200m, 400m and 800m races in a single afternoon.
The following year he set the world record for 300m – 31.2secs – and a British record for the 400m of 48.4secs. The latter remained in place for more than 25 years.
It was the Summer Olympic Games in London in 1908 that brought his most famous – and most controversial – victory. During the 400m final, for which Wyndham was the fastest qualifier, one of the three US competitors he was running against was judged to have blocked him in the final straight. The race was stopped and re-run the following day.
The American runners, however, boycotted the re-start, leaving Wyndham as the only athlete left in contention. He ran the race solo, achieving the gold medal, but under the shadow of a split between British and US authorities, which lasted for 16 years. It remains the only occasion in Olympic history where the final was officially a walkover.
The experience soured Wyndham’s view of athletics and he retired from the sport the same year. On 31 March 1915, aged 32, he was killed by a sniper in France during World War Iwhile attempting to rescue an injured fellow officer.
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