Date of Birth:15 January 1949
Born: Handsworth, Birmingham.
Club(s): Birchfield Harriers, Tipton Harriers.
Coach: Geoff Ward.
Knowing A Great Race
AS the man who now puts together the fields for the international meetings which take place in Britain every year, Ian Stewart knows first hand what true competition means. His greatest achievement was winning the Commonwealth Games 5000m in Edinburgh in 1970, beating fellow Scotsman Ian McCafferty in the finishing straight in what has often been described as one of the best races of all time. Stewart was an incredibly determined distance runner, an athlete for whom the essence of winning was everything - and how it showed in his racing. His Commonwealth triumph came at the age of 21, the culmination of a fabulous junior career, in a family where often he ran against his brothers while his sister progressed to become a Commonwealth champion aswell.
Not Bad For Starters
Living in Birmingham, Stewart’s destination when athletics became his passion was the area’s leading club, Birchfield Harriers, and it was there as a teenager that he linked up with coach Geoff Warr. Stewart worked very hard and his early successes came at cross-country with the Midland youths' title in 1966 and the Midland and National juniors in 1968. Running ‘age-best’ British times was a regular occurrence. His first was the 9:12.8 for Two Miles when he was 16 while in 1968, his final year as a junior, he swept the board with European Junior records at 3000m (8:01.2), 2 Miles (8:35.32), 3 Miles (13:28.4) and 5000m (13:53.32). It was no surprise then that when he became a senior, success was going to follow quickly and in 1969, he was a double European champion, showing he how well could run both indoors and out. On the boards in Belgrade, Stewart won the 3000m gold in 7:55.4 before, in the summer in Athens, he won the 5000m in 13:44.8. His power was growing all the time and his Athens triumph was impressive with his final lap of 56.6 leaving his rivals reeling, with everything was building towards the race for which he will always be best remembered.
What made up Ian Stewart? In Mel Watman’s excellent book, All-Time Greats Of British Athletics, an insight into the runner himself - by himself. “First’s first and second is nowhere as far as I’m concerned,” says Stewart. It was that attitude which he took with him into every race and how much of that poured out during a classic Scottish duel at the Commonwealths in Edinburgh in 1970 where Stewart, though very much from Birmingham, represented the Games’ host country from where his father originated. What a race it was, and showed just how the Commonwealths were considered back in that era as an event of such huge importance. Legends such as Kenya’s Kip Keino, the 1968 Olympic 1500m champion, and Australian Ron Clarke, who broke 18 world records and held the 5000m mark of 13: 16. 6 at the time, were in the race. But in the end, it boiled down to two men in the blue vest and crowd engrossed by what they were watching. McCafferty was in front with two laps to go before Stewart took the lead at the bell with Keino in second. Stewart would never give up as Keino and McCafferty threatened along the back straight and by the final 100m, it was a race between the two Scotsmen.McCafferty was edging closer but Stewart had too much, winning by 0.49 in 13:22.85 with Keino third. It was a European record and two years later he was back on the podium, this time at the Olympics, even though it was not the medal he set out for.
Stewart missed most of the 1971 season with injury, but the following winter, he finished third in the International cross-country and was ready for the Olympics. Munich arrived, but the 5000m final did not go as planned when Stewart lost ground after being knocked by American Steve Prefontaine. With Finland’s Lasse Viren on his way to gold in 13:26.42 and defending champion Mohamed Gammoudi, of Tunisia, second in 13:27.33, Stewart found something extra to take bronze in 13:27.61 as his speed and determination over the last 90m saw him overtake Prefontaine. But disappointed with fifth place at the 5000m and sixth in the 10,000m at the 1974 Commonwealth Games, Stewart turned to cycling for a while, but returned to athletics in superb style in 1975 when he won his second European Indoor 3000m title in Katowice and just a week later won the World cross-country title in Rabat, Morocco, in 35.20. As Viren defended his Olympic 5000m crown in Montreal in 1976, Stewart was seventh (and not happy!) and then in 1978 he ran in the England National cross-country for the first time as a senior. He came second to Bernie Ford - but that summer he retired. Stewart was awarded the MBE in 1979, and after coaching and working to promote distance running, he succeeded Andy Norman as promotions officer for British Athletics in 1994.
He was one of six children - and three of them won European Indoor titles. After Ian's glory in 1969 in Athens, his brother Peter (born 8 August, 1947) was the 3000m champion in Sofia in 1971 while his sister Mary (born 25 February 1956) won the 1500m in San Sebastian in 1977 and then became the Commonwealth Games in 1978 in Edmonton.
1969: 1st 3000m European Indoors, 5000m Europeans
1970: 1st 5000m Commonwealth Games
1972: 3rd 5000m Olympics
1974: 5th 5000m, 6th 10000m Commonwealth Games
1975: 1st World CC, 1st 3000m European Indoors
1976: 7th 5000m Olympics
International CC: 1968- 6 Jnr, 1971- 9, 1972- 3
UK Internationals: 18 (1968-77)
Won AAA 5000m 1969, UK 10000m 1977, Indoor 3000m 1972-3, 1975, National Junior CC 1968; Scottish 5000m 1970.
Other best times: 1500m 3:39.12 (1969), 1M 3:57.3 (1969), 2000m 5:02.98 (1975), 3000m 7:46.83 (1976), 2M 8:22.0 (1972), 5000m 13:22.8 (1970), 10,000m 27:43.03 (1977); Road: 10M 45:13 (1977).