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News > OP updates > A leap into the unknown

A leap into the unknown

Lance Davidson-Brett (OP 1954) recalls a proud sporting achievement under Hoppy's watchful gaze
26 Aug 2022
OP updates
Lance (r) competing in hurdles at the Army Athletics Championship a few years after leaving PGS
Lance (r) competing in hurdles at the Army Athletics Championship a few years after leaving PGS

Back in the 1950s while the school was strong in both rugby and cricket, sports day was a sort of one-day aberration squeezed between the rugby and cricket seasons. This was Hoppy’s area (John Hopkinson, PE, 1949-90). We ran along the lines on the grass dictated by Mr Bulbeck’s ancient white line marking machine, we threw and we jumped. Hoppy told me that I was no better and no worse than the rest of the school’s sprinters, but as I had long legs, how about trying the high hurdles. I had never hurdled before in my life but, after another year passed of cricket and rugby, I took up hurdling, which in the beginning was more like leaping over all 10 hurdles. However, my technique improved because, in 1953, I broke the school record in 16.1 seconds. 

Hoppy then took four of us to the English Schoolboys’ Athletics Championships at the White City. I believe that there were, besides myself, Reynard, Bayley and Harding. Before my race started there was a great deal of hammering of nails into starting blocks to hold them to the cinder track. I had never run on a cinder track – we only had Hilsea’s grass. I recall being admonished for holding up the race by the starter. ‘Hurry up with your blocks number 3 please’. I was embarrassed. ‘I don’t have any please Sir’. There were a lot of smirks behind hands from the others. The starter’s gun went off and 15.8 seconds later I was first through the tape: the 1953 schoolboy champion of the senior 120-yard hurdles. We brought back to school an enormous silver shield which had been inaugurated in the late 1800s. 

One Saturday afternoon the new Headmaster, Mr Hibbert, displayed the shield, Hoppy and the four of us from the balcony of the old scoreboard pavilion and delivered a speech of congratulations. The shield then resided in the cabinet on the stairs leading to the library for a year before it had to be returned. That season I also broke the high jump record at 6ft. Landing from that height into a hard sandpit could be painful!

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