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17 October 2014

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Ian Black - swimming record breaker 1958

Ian Black shows off his medals


The BBC Sports Personality award was first presented in 1954, Chris Chataway and Gordon Pirie, both from the world of athletics, winning in 1954 and 1955 respectively. The 1956 winner was a cricketer; Jim Laker's wicket taking in the Ashes Test against Australia guaranteed him the award. It was the turn of golf to provide the champion in 1957 when, at 44, Dia Rees captured the BBC title. Rees was the victorious Ryder Cup Captain who brought the Cup back to Britain after an absence of 22 years.

In 1958, the winner would be 27 years younger than his predecessor and be the first Scot to win the award. 1958 was a memorable year for swimmer Ian Black.

The 1958 European Championships were held in Budapest, the second time the city had hosted the event. Held every two years in late spring/early summer, the championships always attracted the best from across the continent. Ian Black sparkled. His haul of three gold medals was impressive as he took the top spot in the 400 metres, 1500 metres freestyle and 200 metres butterfly event. This achievement remains unequalled as no swimmer since has completed the hat trick of wins across these events.

Ian Black


The British Empire and Commonwealth Games of 1958 (re-branded in 1954 from the original title of the British Empire Games) were held in the Welsh capital of Cardiff. Ian Black was a clear medal prospect for Scotland and the Scottish relay teams also had hopes of success.

In the 440 yards freestyle event Ian Black won silver in a time of 4:28.5. The gold belonged to John Konrads of Australia, who together with his sister Isla were the 'Konrads Kids', the swimming sensations from down-under. John Konrads won three gold medals, beating Ian Black by almost three seconds in the 440-yard event.

The 220 yards Butterfly event, the stroke being Black's best, brought gold for Scotland. Graham Symonds of England who secured silver was left trailing by the blistering performance of Black who won by almost three seconds in a time of 2:22.6.

Ian Black's third medal came in the 4 x 220 yards freestyle relay. Australia, led by John Konrads, took gold while Ian Black led the Scottish team to silver.

In two championships the young Scot had gained six medals, four of them gold, and made himself a headline name in his own country and the world of swimming.

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