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Eric Liddell

Scottish athlete Eric Liddell was born on January 16, 1902. At the 1924 Olympics in Paris, he won a gold medal in the 400-meter dash.

Liddell, a staunch Christian, famously refused to race on Sunday, with the consequence was that he was forced to withdraw from the Men's 100 metres, his best event. His success in the 400 metres was largely unexpected.

Born in China, Eric Liddell was educated at Eltham College, Mottingham, south-east London, for 12 years. He was an outstanding sportsman, being awarded the Blackheath Cup as the best athlete of his year, playing for the 1st XI and the 1st XV by the age of 15, later becoming Captain of both cricket and rugby. His headmaster described him as being: 'entirely without vanity'.

Liddell's ambition was to become a missionary, like his parents, in China. He set off in 1925, and remained there when war with Japan broke out. In 1943, he was interned, and died as a result of the conditions under which he subsequently lived.

The 1981 film Chariots of Fire commemorated Liddell's Olympic career, and starred Ian Charleson as Liddell. One major historic inaccuracy in the movie surrounds Liddell's refusal to race in the 100 metres. The film portrays Liddell as finding out that one of the heats was to be held on a Sunday as he was boarding the boat that would take the British Olympic team across the English Channel on their way to Paris. Actually, the schedule was made public several months in advance. Liddell then spent the remaining months training for the 400, an event in which he had previously excelled. The scene in the movie where Liddell fell early in a 400 race in a Scotland-France dual meet and made up a 20-metre deficit to win the race is historically accurate.

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