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Scipio Africanus "Sam" Mussabini (1867-1927) was an athletics coach best known for his work with Harold Abrahams. In total he coached athletes to a total of eleven Olympic medals over five Olympics. However in an era where amateurism was prized, he was not officially recognised because he was a professional coach.

Early life and career

He was born in Londonmarker of Arab, Turkish, Italian and French ancestry. He followed his father into journalism and in the 1890s he was also a professional sprinter for about five years. In 1894 he coached Bert Harris to the first professional cycling championship. In 1896 he was employed as a cycling coach by the bicycle tyre company Dunlop Pneumatic Tyre Company.

Mussabini played billiards to a high standard and reported on matches as a sports journalist during the winter months. In 1897 he co-authored a technical book on billiards and began writing articles for a billiards journal. In 1902, he became its assistant editor and later the joint proprietor and editor. In 1904 he wrote a two-volume book on the technicalities of billiards. He was also one of the top billiard referees.

Olympic athlete coaching

He coached South African sprinter, Reggie Walker, to a gold medal at the 1908 Olympic Gamesmarker in London. He coached further gold medal winners at the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholmmarker. He was appointed as full time coach by Polytechnic Harriers from 1912 until 1927.

He brought a systematic approach to coaching, rather than just being a masseur. For example, he used the techniques of Eadweard Muybridge to photograph runners' actions and techniques at the finish.

The 1920 Olympic Games at Antwerpmarker he coached Albert Hill to two gold medals in the 800m and 1500m, and Harry Edward, third in the 100m. He coached Harold Abrahams to a gold medal in the 100m and silver in the 4x100m at the 1924 Olympic Games in Parismarker.

Legacy and honours

Mussabini's success at the 1924 Olympics was portrayed in the film Chariots of Fire in which Mussabini is played by Ian Holm.

His proteges won further medals at the 1928 Olympic Games after his death.

In 1998, the Mussabini Medal was created, to celebrate the contribution of coaches of UK performers who have achieved outstanding success on the world stage.

Southwark Councilmarker nominated Mussabini for a blue plaque at 84 Burbage Road in both 2004 and 2006; however, he has yet to be awarded one.

Quote

"Only think of two things - the gun and the tape. When you hear the one, just run like hell until you break the other."

Notes

  1. Southwark Council | Discover Southwark | Blue Plaques | Blue Plaques 2006 at www.southwark.gov.uk


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