Famous Freemason - Harold Maurice Abrahams
I have always believed that Harold Abrahams was the only European sprinter who could have run with Jesse Owens, Ralph Metcalfe, and the other great sprinters from the U.S. He was in their class, not only because of natural gifts – his magnificent physique, his splendid racing temperament, his flair for the big occasion – but because he understood athletics and had given more brainpower and more will power to the subject than any other runner of his day.
- Philip Noel-Baker
Harold Maurice Abrahams was an English track and field athlete. He was Olympic champion in 1924 in the 100 metres sprint, a feat depicted in the 1981 film Chariots of Fire.
Abrahams attended Bedford School, Repton School and then Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, from 1919 to 1923. Before attending university, Abrahams served as a lieutenant in the British Army. He afterwards trained as a lawyer. At Cambridge, he was a member of the Cambridge University Athletics Club (of which he was president 1922–1923), Cambridge University Liberal Club, the University Pitt Club, and the Gilbert and Sullivan Society.
Abrahams was also a member of the Achilles Club, a track and field club formed in 1920 by and for past and present representatives of Oxford and Cambridge universities. One of the club's founding members was Evelyn Montague, who like Abrahams is also portrayed in the 1981 film Chariots of Fire.
A sprinter and long jumper since his youth, he continued to compete in running while at Cambridge. Abrahams earned a place in the 1920 Olympic team, but was eliminated in the quarter-finals of both the 100 m and 200 m, and finished 20th in the long jump. He was also part of the British relay team that took fourth place in the 4 × 100 m.
Although Abrahams dominated British long jump and sprint events, after graduating from Cambridge, he employed Sam Mussabini, a professional coach, who improved his style and training techniques in preparation for the 1924 Olympics in Paris, France.
For six months, Mussabini emphasized the 100 m at Abrahams's direction, with the 200 m as secondary. Through vigorous training, Abrahams perfected his start, stride and form. One month before the 1924 Games, Abrahams set the English record in the long jump 24 feet 2+1⁄2 inches (7.38 m), a record which stood for the next 32 years. The same day he ran the 100-yard dash in 9.6 seconds, but the time was not submitted as a record because the track was on a slight downhill.
At the 1924 Summer Games, Abrahams won the 100 m in a time of 10.6 seconds, beating all the American favourites, including the 1920 gold-medal winner Charley Paddock. In third place was Arthur Porritt, later Governor-General of New Zealand and Queen's Surgeon. The Paris Olympics 100 m dash took place at 7 p.m. on 7 July 1924, and Abrahams and Porritt dined together at 7 p.m. on 7 July every year thereafter, until Abrahams's death in 1978. Teammate Eric Liddell, the British 100-yard dash record holder at that time, declined to compete in the Paris 100 m because one of the heats for the event was held on a Sunday. Both Liddell and Abrahams competed in the final of the 200 m race, with Liddell finishing third and Abrahams sixth. Liddell went on to win the gold medal in the 400 metres. Abrahams was the opening runner for the British 4 × 100 m team, which won the silver medal. He did not compete in the long jump.
In May 1925, Abrahams broke his leg while long-jumping, ending his athletic career. He returned to his legal career as a barrister. In 1928, he was team captain of the British Olympic team at Amsterdam and editor of the Official British Olympic Report for the same games. Subsequently, he worked as an athletics journalist for forty years, becoming a commentator on the sports for BBC radio. In 1936, he reported the Berlin Olympics for the BBC. Later in his life, he also became president of the Jewish Athletic Association, and served as chairman for the Amateur Athletic Association (AAA).
Abrahams wrote a number of books, including Oxford Versus Cambridge. A Record Of Inter-University Contests From 1827-1930, The Olympic Games, 1896–1952 and The Rome Olympiad, 1960.
Although not an official timer, Abrahams was present when Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile in 1954.
Abrahams died in Enfield on 14 January 1978, aged 78. He was buried in the same grave as his wife Sybil Evers, in Saint John the Baptist Churchyard in Great Amwell, Hertfordshire.