Eric Henry Liddell

1902 - 1945

Eric Liddell
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Eric Liddell

Record-breaking athlete who won two medals in the 1924 Paris Olympic Games. Although born in Tientsin, North China, where his parents were missionaries, and schooled in London, the family home was in Edinburgh. Liddell attended the University of Edinburgh, where he began to run competitively and also proved a talent on the rugby field. In 1922-23, he played international rugby for Scotland, capped seven times.

In 1924, he went to the Paris Olympics to run in the 100m, but refused to take part in this race, due to his religious principles, because the qualifying heats were held on a Sunday. However, he was able to run in the 200m, winning a bronze medal and was persuaded to enter the 400m, a distance in which he had little experience, yet sensationally won the gold medal.

He returned to China as a missionary in 1925, where he died in a Japanese internment camp at the very end of the Second World War. His achievements are remembered in the 1981 film Chariots of Fire, where Liddell is played by another Scot, Ian Charleston (1949-90). The Eric Liddell Centre in Edinburgh, and several sports centres, are named after him. His name appears on the Scottish Rugby Union War Memorial at Murrayfield Stadium. In 2001, Liddell was honoured by being nominated as one of the first members of the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame.

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