Herb Elliott (Australia)
A talented schoolboy athlete in Perth, Western Australia, Elliott, at the age of 20 broke the world mile and 1500m records in 1958. The former was set at Santry Stadium, Bublin (now Morton Stadium after the legendary athletics promoter Billy Morton), where Elliott reduced Derek Ibbotson's record by some 3 seconds to clock 3.54.5. The 1500m record was broken days later in Gothenburg where he beat the Czech runner Stanislav Jungwirth's world mark to clock 3.36.0. Also in 1958, Elliott won gold medals in the 880yards and the mile at the Commonwealth Games in Cardiff.
Two years later, at the Olympic Games in Rome, he won gold in the 1500m, breaking his own world record with a time of 3.35.6 which stood for seven years.
Elliott's success can be attributed largely to inspiration drawn from his coach Percy Cerutty who espoused hard and natural training at his camp among the sand dunes at Portsea, Victoria. Cerutty encouraged his athletes to follow his example. On the morning of Elliott's Olympic triumph, Cerutty, in his sixties, ran a flat-out mile. He then said to his protegee, "You will run faster than I have this afternoon, but you will not run harder."
Elliott effectively retired in 1961 at the age of 23, unbeaten over 1500m or a mile. However, at Cambridge University soon after his Rome triumph, studying heavily and training little, he was asked to run for his university against Oxford in the Varsity match mile. In the trial, at the bell he trailed Martin Heath by 10 metres and appeared to be under pressure. The prospect of the world's greatest miler losing his unbeaten record loomed! In the home straight, approaching the finish, Elliott, ashen faced, dug deep into his resources and just passed his rival to take the tape.
His wonderful but short career can be summed up......talent, dedication, inspiration and courage.