Then and now - racing against the odds; SID CROSS HAD A HEART CONDITION YET HE COMPETED IN THE 1948 OLYMPIC GAMES - ON SUNDAY GLYNN TROMANS, WHO HAD HEART SURGERY, RUNS IN THE WORLD CROSS-COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIP.
THE day 12-year-old Sid Cross came home from school and collapsed on the floor, his family just prayed for his survival.
Afterwards no-one thought the boy, who had a serious heart condition and bad bronchitis, was likely to thrive.
So it came as a huge surprise when, in his late teens, Sid suddenly became an athlete - and went to on to compete in the 1948 Olympic Games.
Sid's family, friends and neighbours were all gathered around their wireless sets listening to how their boy performed and willing him to succeed.
"They were all very proud," recalls Sid, now aged 77. "Not just my family but the people round about were pleased to think a lad from their street was at Wembley, competing alongside athletes like Bannister and Chattaway. It was a big thrill."
And it all came about because of the cursory medical examination that passed Sid with flying colours to join the forces during the Second World War.
"I didn't tell them about my bad heart or the bronchitis, which was pretty serious in those days," he says. "And when I went home and told my Dad I was passed fit he couldn't believe it. So I joined the Fleet Air Arm when I was 17 and it was the best thing that ever happened to me."
Sid, who lives in Stretton-on-Dunsmore, says the regular exercise and fresh air did him good and his health problems seemed to disappear.
The illness, that at one time had restricted his schooling to just an hour a day and threatened to make him a life-long invalid, never returned.
"We had to run a mile and a quarter around the camp at Warrington as part of training and I found myself way out in front. It was the first time I realised I could run," recalls Sid.
"It was all part of basic training but I was much faster than the other chaps."
Sid's Navy officers spotted he was a natural athlete and picked him to represent the Fleet Air Arm. And when he was demobbed his father took over his training and he joined Birchfield Harriers athletics club.
His successes at county and national level, including breaking the English triple jump record, culminated in his selection for the Olympic Games at Wembley, where he achieved sixth place with a triple jump of more than 47ft.
But although Birchfield Harriers set him on the road to a brilliant athletics career, Sid says he has a more important reason to thank the club.
"I met my wife, Irene, on the running track there," he says. "She was a road walker then but she gave it up when we had the children. She was a very good athlete and a better wife."
Sid, whose wife Irene died in 1994, has three children, and there are now grandchildren and a great grandchild. So far none look like following in Sid's athletics tracks but they are proud to know he held the English triple jump record for over 21 years.
His record-winning jump was 48ft 8in and his unofficial personal best was 51ft 2 inches. He retired in 1956 having made more than 35 international appearances.
"I ran with Bannister and Chattaway, and met quite a few famous people including royalty from here and Europe," he says. "I didn't win a medal at the Olympics but it was a wonderful experience."
GLYNN TROMANS marked his 34th birthday last week with an eight- mile run as part of his training regime for the World Cross-Country Championships in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Sunday.
Two weeks after that he will compete in the European 10,000m on the track in Athens, where he is also hoping to take part in the Olympics next year.
It's a remarkable story for the runner from Haynstone Road, Coundon, who in 1996 underwent two operations to seal an extra valve in his heart.
"Through my early 20s my running career was stop-start because of various injuries and when I came through those, I had some medical problems which turned out to be a heart problem," he says.
After a lot of investigations he underwent heart surgery.
But just 10 months later made his international athletics debut.
"It effectively gave me a new lease of life," says Glynn. "It was not a life-threatening condition but a career-threatening condition from an athletics point of view.
"I was perfectly prepared to have the surgery but I'm sure at the time it was traumatic for my wife and my family. I just saw it as something I had to do to keep running.
"The first operation didn't work so I had a second one about six weeks later.
"Since then it's cleared up and I've not looked back really and have been part of the British athletics scene."
Glynn, a member of the Coventry Godiva Harriers club, is running about 100 miles a week in preparation for the 12km World Cross-Country Championships.
He often runs with his seven-year-old dog, Morris, an Australian Kelpie which he and his wife Lisa got from a rescue centre. Appropriately enough Australian Kelpie's are herding dogs, bred for endurance, and Glynn found Morris could run with him.
He believes the importance of the World Cross-Country Championships can't be stressed enough because it acts as a great leveller for runners from the various long distance disciplines.
He says: "The guy who wins that race can claim to be the best distance runner in the world, it's different even to something like an Olympic final. Everyone comes into the same event and it's a big deal."
Glynn attended Walsgrave CE Primary School and then Caludon Castle School where he had his introduction to athletics.
"Since I was a kid I've been running in Coventry," he says. "The reality is I love the sport. I did my first race in a Coventry primary schools cross-country championships when I was about 10 - I certainly didn't win it.
"To go from that point to 25 years later, where I'm a British champion and about to go off to my 13th major championship, it's a long journey. But I wouldn't make that journey unless I loved the sport."
Before concentrating on athletics, Glynn, who has a business degree from what is now Coventry University and an MSc in recreational management from Loughborough University, drifted into lecturing.
He was at Tile Hill College - now City College Coventry - for about six years, teaching marketing and business programmes and working on sport and leisure courses.
Then in 1998 he was selected for the Commonwealth Games at 10,000m and gave up his job. He says the backing of his wife Lisa, a senior crime and alcohol officer for the Swanswell Trust charity, has been imperative in helping his athletics career.
"Lisa's very supportive of what I do and is obviously the main money earner in the house as well - to a degree she subsidises what I do," he says.
For the past 10 months though he has worked part-time as an athletics development officer for Greater Warwickshire Sport, based at Warwick University, helping to bring in some money while giving him enough time to continue training.
Glynn's work centres around giving youngsters the chance to get involved in athletics when they wouldn't normally have the opportunity.
He currently operates four 10-week programmes - in Coventry, Leamington, Rugby and Nuneaton - for children either in their final year at primary school or their first year at secondary school.
"I find it really interesting, having been involved in this sport since I was a little kid," he says. "It gives a totally new insight into sport and the problems it faces.
"I've got more than 100 kids now doing athletics who otherwise wouldn't and the feedback has been very positive.
"A lot of people do athletics in a slightly older age group and do it for fitness purposes. It's interesting and exciting to see kids getting involved - it's about having fun."
He works with most of the main clubs across the area and the Greater Warwickshire Youth Games is run by the organisation. But on Sunday Glynn will turn his attention to doing battle in Lausanne for the World Cross- Country Championship title.
And after that? His burning ambition is to qualify to compete in the 10,000m at next year's Olympics in its spiritual home, Athens.
He says: "In 1996 I probably was not good enough but that's when I had heart surgery, in 2000 I had a virus, so in 2004 I will be 35 and that's going to be my last opportunity to compete in the Olympics.
"It's not going to be much better than that - running in the Olympics in Athens - and that would be a great place to stop at this level.
"I've not made any fixed decisions but while I enjoy it, I will keep running."
HOW ATHLETICS MORE THAN HALF A CENTURY AGO COMPARES TO TODAY'S SPORT
AT the height of his athletics career Sid Cross was training for two to three hours, three times a week. He worked full time to earn a living and his personal trainer was his dad, who had no sports experience but just an interest in Sid's progress.
"He always used to insist that I wore tracksuit trousers when training. He said I would never pull a muscle if I kept them warm - and I never did," he says.
Sid worked at Wolsey Cars in Birmingham and later at General Foods in Banbury, Birmingham Social Services and as a school caretaker.
Athletics never made him any money and competitors had to provide all their own running kit and shoes.
"We were proper true amateurs. When we ran for a prize it would be a clock or a set of cutlery, that type of thing," says Sid. "If you were invited to compete in London you had to save your railway ticket and hand it in to get your money back."
Sometimes his bosses would give him time off for an event but if a competition was several days he would have to take annual leave.
In the run-up to the Olympics the athletes were given extra ration cards so they could eat a little more meat and milk to build up strength.
The Olympic "village" in 1948 was a Butlin's seaside holiday camp and the athletes were issued with white trousers, an Olympic blazer and a beret for the opening ceremony.
They were also given a tracksuit and treated to free drinks of Ovaltine.
On the day of the opening ceremony boy scouts looked after the needs of the athletes waiting to enter the arena.
"It was a very hot day and I remember they kept giving the British team water and not bothering much about the others!" he says.
His national record for the triple jump was 48ft 8in (equivalent of 14.85 metres) and stood for 21 years. His unofficial best was 51ft 2in.
Today's record holder for the triple jump is Jonathan Edwards with a jump of 18.29 metres achieved in 1995.
Sid now suffers brittle bones in his arm and arthritis in his knees - the legacy of his athletics days - but would not change a thing.
"I had the opportunity and I loved it," he says.
GLYNN'S TRAINING SCHEDULE IN 2003 GLYNN trains 12 to 13 times a week - running about 100 miles - and won the National Cross Country Championships in 2000 by a record margin.
He is the UK cross country champion and is about to become the first Briton to compete in his seventh consecutive World Championship.
His typical day is:
Alarm goes off at 6.15am.
Has a drink and goes on eight-mile run.
Takes wife, Lisa, to work for about 9am.
Works until about 1.30pm before going home for a rest.
Takes dog, Morris, for a walk.
Picks Lisa up from work.
Has another early evening training session before finishing about at about 9pm.
Tomorrow: Time Tunnel looks at the history of Coventry's running clubs
ATHLETE: Sid Cross in his sporting days when he represented Britain in the 1948 Olympics; OLYMPIC HOPEFUL: Glynn Tromans trains for this weekend's World Cross-Country Championships and next year's games in Athens; TODAY'S BEST: Jonathan Edwards holds the triple jump record that Sid held for 21 years
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|Publication:||Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)|
|Date:||Mar 28, 2003|
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