Well, yes, sorta and maybe

So, black athlete from poor family represents country at Olympics and:

Eventually it all became too much. Her former PE teacher had to finally stop training her because of his personal obligations, and the lack of training facilities, and having to support her family, meant that Neil made the hugely difficult decision to retire from professional athletics at just 23.

She retired in 1973. And here’s the thing:

….the amateur status of the sport began to be displaced by growing professionalism in the late 1970s…

It wasn’t, really, professional at the time she was doing it.

Yes, yes, shamateurism and all that – look, I lived in Bath in the 80s, I know about this and the rugby club – but the real problem here is not her blackness, poverty, wrong side of the tracks, it’s that she was that decade early in the economic process. All very sad no doubt but it’s not quite the story The G is telling.

10 thoughts on “Well, yes, sorta and maybe”

  1. Indeed. I am sure 90% of athletes of the day found themselves in exactly the same situation.

    Congratulations BTW to the liberal establishment for its recent success in turning me into a racist.

  2. Not even a decade. Andrea Lynch and Sonia Lanaman are only a couple of years younger, won schools trophies, joined clubs (Mitcham and Haringey) and were sponsored to train in the USA. In the 1970s the govt started to take sports seriously and via the Sports Council could fund aspiring athletes.
    Quality will out, but it helps to have a savvy coach who knows the system, which us what Ms Neil did not have.

  3. Ottokring
    “In the 1970s the govt started to take sports seriously and via the Sports Council could fund^H^H^H^H spunk taxpayers money on aspiring athletes.”


    There is never any need for the state to spend taxpayers money on sport.

  4. The single event that had the biggest effect on track and field turning pro was the political boycotts of the 1976 and 1980 Olympic Games. Twelve years (1972-1984) without the sport’s headline event operating effectively would have shut it out from public attention forever. So the IAAF took control and brought the commercial aspect into the sunlight.

  5. Ask Jerry Guscott how he feels that his career ended just as Richmond were dishing out £250k a year contracts

  6. “who was forced to quit in her prime”: journalists make free with the verb “forced”. Who put the bayonet to her back or threatened to throw acid on her?

    As for the story (i) her career might have prospered more if her father had stuck around to support the family, and (ii) over the years I’ve seen various claims that so-and-so was the first black such-and-such, and then it turns out he or she wasn’t. Somebody from long ago was first.

  7. The stupidity of the Guardian in saying that she had to retire from professional athletics at 23 – if she had been a professional she could have given up her day job at 20. Maybe the writer doesn’t know that “international” and “professional” are not interchangeable words.
    Amateur athletics required sacrifices (unless you were called “Burghley”), like most amateur sports. This lady had it tougher than most but being mixed-race did not, it would seem from the article, contribute to the difficulty of her sporting achievements.

  8. My grandfather played international rugby – but funded that by being a teacher. One of the PE teachers at my school was a thrice-Olympic medallist – but she funded that by being a PE teacher.

  9. @ jgh
    Excellent: my father missed his Welsh hockey vest due to the War (so only a schoolboy international).
    We knew various amateur internationals in his generation: accountant, teacher … (I didn’t know all of their jobs). I’ve known several Olympic athletes, all of whom funded that from their earnings (one ended up as a BBC producer but I have never asked most of them because it seemed impertinent), and one guy who worked for NatWest Investment Bank who won some non-Olympic world championships for 100km and 100 miles; the only current Olympian is not subsidised by UK athletics unlike some younger athletes; but the best sportsman that I have had the good luck to meet was Percy Lewis who was working as a milkman when British Empire Featherweight Champion and contending for the world title. [Oh yes, he was technically a professional, but in those days championships meant more than money.]

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