Olympic feature: Treatment let Peter walk into history

COMING FULL CIRCLE: Former Olympic race walker Peter Marlow, who now works at Theatre Royal in Bury St Edmunds, will play a key role in organising race walking events at London 2012 40 years after competing at the Berlin Olympics
COMING FULL CIRCLE: Former Olympic race walker Peter Marlow, who now works at Theatre Royal in Bury St Edmunds, will play a key role in organising race walking events at London 2012 40 years after competing at the Berlin Olympics
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AS we continue our countdown to the London Olympic and Paralympic Games which are now 19 weeks away, sports reporter SAM MURLEY caught up with a former athlete who has come full circle 40 years on to now play an integral role in organising part of this Summer’s Games.

Growing up in Hammersmith, West London, Marlow stumbled across the sport while attending the Quinton Grammar School and only really took up the sport for a ‘laugh’ as the team were looking for a walker.

However, quite quickly the former sprinter and 400-metre runner progressed in the discipline, winning every competition to be crowned British junior champion, before storming the senior levels, taking the 10km and 10-mile race crowns until a diagnosis of shin splints looked to have ruined the promising athlete’s burgeoning career.

For an astonishing 10 years, Marlow’s racing was affected until a doctor at Roehampton Hospital convinced him to become the second person to undergo a new treatment and miraculously within three months of finishing his treatment he was crowned British champion again in early January 1972.

This led to a somewhat shock inclusion in Great Britain’s 20km race walking Olympic team just seven months later at the Munich Games in what was then West Germany, which are unfortunately remembered for the abduction and murder of 11 Israeli athletes, coaches and officials by the terrorist Black September group during the final month of the competition in September.

Despite calls to cancel the remainder of the Games, International Olympic Committee president Avery Brundage declared that ‘the Games must go on’ and so they subsequently did.

Although his Olympic appearance, in which he raced to 17th, was overshadowed by the atrocities, Marlow reflects back on the 1972 Games with cherished memories.

“I was shocked to be selected for the Games, I scraped in really and was lucky after only having six months training, but now I always be known as an Olympian,” he said. “That is something that can’t be taken away from me.

“Unfortunately the Games will always be remembered for the shocking massacre which changed everything.

“It was obviously really sad for the Israeli people, but at the time we didn’t really know what was happening until we heard reports on the radio.

“It is sad to say it, but it didn’t really have a major affect on us, it was shock more than anything.

“My biggest memory is walking out at the stadium in front of 80,000 people, even now I remember feeling physically sick but the memories are ones I will cherish forever.”

After hanging up his racing shoes, Marlow went on to be elected president of the Race Walking Association in 2003 and has over seen past Olympics including, Sydney 2000, Athens in 2004 and most recently the Beijing Games in 2008, as a chief judge for the race walking events.

His involvement will continue this year in London as he has been selected to help organise the women’s 20km and men’s 50km race walking events alongside the London Marathon organisation, making sure the technical aspects of the events run smoothly as well as catering for the needs of the athletes.

Although there has been scepticism over London 2012, Marlow is in no doubt the spectacle created will match any past Olympics as he looks to round off 40 years of personal involvement in his own Olympic legacy.

“I was born in Hammersmith and being a ‘Londoner’ having the Games here and being involved in organising them is a great honour for me,” he added.

“They could have sold out events 10 times over and I’m in no doubt it will live up to the expectations.

“Everyone loves London and I’m confident that the legacy everyone talks about will be there afterwards.

“We may not be able to compete with the budget of the Beijing Games but in our own way it will be very special and will be an amazing spectacle for the rest of the world to see.

“It is my swansong in a way because I can’t get to any higher point then helping to organise a home Games and I can happy with what I have achieved 40 years after competing.”