Friday, October 5, 2012


LONG-DISTANCE OLYMPIC CHAMPION - Which British runner is the only person to win an Olympic gold medal for long distance running? Northwich-born Paul Radcliffe? Hyde’s finest Dr Ron Hill? Maybe even Brendan Foster or Chris Chataway? Not even close. The person concerned was a Manchester journalist, a self-trained vegetarian and a radio pioneer - Emil Voigt. 
He was born in Ardwick and holds an Olympic record unlikely ever to be broken. He raced to victory in the five miles event at the 1908 London Games, clocking 25 mins 11.2 seconds. It was and still is an Olympic record. And in the 104 years since, no Brit has struck individual Olympic gold in an event above 5,000 metres. 
In 1905, Voigt worked for the Manchester Guardian, and two years after the Olympics he returned to the paper as a sports writer. Voigt is etched in Olympic history yet virtually unknown. Granddaughter, Robin lives in Australia and is writing a book about the ‘Ardwick Arrow’s’ place in track and field history.

Unsurprisingly, Voigt was something of a maverick. He preferred to train himself, running three times a day, well into the night, in the weeks leading up to the Games. He devised a special vegetarian diet and used self-massage as a means of preparation. 
He won the British Four Miles title in 1908 and 1909 but while defending that title again in 1910 he was knocked down on the finishing line. He continued to run for another four years after the Olympics and also founded the Amateur Athletic Union in Britain in order to bring about better conditions for runners and cyclists. 
Voigt maintained a lifelong involvement with athletics, offering training advice to the Finns in the early 1900s and later to New Zealand runners when he finally settled there in 1947, living out his life in Auckland until the age of 90. But he probably never thought his Olympic exploits would remain intact for more than a century.

Emil Robert Voigt was a British athlete, winner of the Olympic 5 miles race in 1908. Voigt, a vegetarian, indeed won the race easily, and became the second and last Olympic champion in the event, which was replaced by the 5000 m and 10000 m events in 1912. People’s champion Voigt returned to Manchester as conquering hero, carried shoulder high out of the station. The 1908 Summer Olympics, which were held in London, proved his finest hour though he went on to become a multi winner in the UK, Europe and Australia. The five-mile distance is no longer run in the Olympics, but unlike many sepia tinged performances of the past, vegetarian athlete Voigt’s time still compares favourably with anything his modern day counterparts can manage.

The book, “Food for the Spirit, Vegetarianism and the World Religions”, observes: “That vegetarianism has always been widespread in India is clear from the earliest Vedic texts. This was observed by the ancient traveler Megasthenes and also by Fa-hsien, a Chinese Buddhist monk who, in the fifth century, traveled to India in order to obtain authentic copies of the scriptures. These scriptures unambiguously support the meatless way of life. In the Mahabharata, for instance, the great warrior Bhishma explains to Yudhishthira, eldest of the Pandava princes, that the meat of animals is like the flesh of one’s own son, and that the foolish person who eats meat must be considered the vilest of human beings [Anu. 114.11]. The eating of ‘dirty’ food, it warns, is not as terrible as the eating of flesh [Shanti. 141.88].”

“What Is Hinduism?” :
Chapter 43 - “The Meat-Free Life”
“Hindus Were the First Vegetarians”
Hinduism Today Magazine
Himalaya Academy, India - USA - 2007

Published by dasavatara das - "Vedic Views on World News"

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