This is the first full biography of Sydney Wooderson, Britain’s most popular sportsman during the 1930s and 1940s. A more unlikely sports hero is hard to imagine – he was small, shy and ran in thick glasses and baggy shorts. The public loved seeing him beat bigger and more muscular ‘Johnny Foreigners’, symbolising Britain’s bulldog spirit. At the 1936 ‘Hitler Olympics’ Sydney secretly photographed the Fuhrer, a snap recently uncovered in a dusty attic and published here!
Against all odds he broke world records and won titles galore, and for years was the world’s fastest miler. He was widely expected to be first under four minutes, only for war to intervene. Despite his fame, Sydney took the daily train to his London office job, happy to be anonymous in dark suit, hat and briefcase. Bad eyesight meant his war service was restricted to the home front, doing his bit running for war charities before falling seriously ill. He bounced back to become the European 5,000 metres champion and English national cross-country champion. Sir Roger Bannister was among many to name him their No.1 inspirational figure. During his glory days Sydney was best-known sportsman in the land, but his shyness and dislike of publicity saw him become a forgotten hero. The book covers every race from his school days to retirement, describes his life in austerity Britain.
Born in Luton in 1955, Rob Hadgraft spent 16 years as a news and sports reporter and sub-editor with the East Anglican Daily Times group of newspapers, followed by a stint in Portugal and then 8 years as Publications Editor at the RAC in London. After turning freelance in 2000, he focussed on books and magazine features abut various aspects of sporting history. Rob is a keen club runner for more than 30 years (more than 1,000 races completed) and currently lives in North Essex. This is his 20th published book.