ABRAHAMS , family of English athletes. sir adolphe abrahams (1883–1967), physician and author, studied at Cambridge, where he was sculling champion (1904–05). During World War i he was a major in the Royal Medical Corps and subsequently held several important medical posts in London hospitals. He was also medical officer in charge of the British Olympic teams from 1912 until 1948, president of the British Association of Sports and Medicine, and a fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine. His many publications included: The Photography of Moving Objects (1910); Indigestion (1920); Woman – Man's Equal? (1954); and two books written with his brother, Harold: Training for Athletes (1928) and Training for Health and Athletics (1936).
sir sidney ("solly") abrahams (1885–1957), British colonial official, brother of Adolphe and Harold. Born in Birmingham, he studied at Cambridge and entered the British Colonial Service, becoming town magistrate in Zanzibar (1915), advocate general, Baghdad (1920), attorney general of Zanzibar (1922), chief justice of Uganda (1933–34), Tanganyika (1934–36), and Ceylon (1936–39). A noted athlete, he represented Cambridge in the long jump (1904–06) and the 100-yard dash (1906), and competed for Great Britain in the 100-meter race and long jump in the 1906 Olympics, finishing fifth in the long jump with a leap of 6.21 meters. He also competed in the long jump at the 1912 Olympics, finishing in 11th place with a jump of 6.72 meters, just shy of 22-feet. Sidney was elected president in 1947 of Britain's oldest athletic club, the London Athletic Club, becoming the first Jew to hold the post.
harold maurice abrahams (1899–1978), athlete and lawyer who became the first European to win an Olympic sprint title when he won the 100-meter dash in 1924. Born in Bedford, he began racing at the age of eight following his brother Solly, and at the age of 12 won his first 100-yard race in 14.0 seconds. He won the English public schools' 100-yard dash and long jump titles in 1918. He studied at Cambridge, where he won eight victories against Oxford in the 100-yard, 440-yard, and long jump from 1920 to 1923. Harold was also the president of the university's Athletic Club.
At the 1920 Antwerp Olympics, Harold was a member of the sixth place 4 × 100-meter team, but failed to advance past the preliminary heats in the sprints or long jump. In 1924 Harold established a British long jump record of 24 feet, 2½ inches, a record that stood for the next 32 years. Six months before the 1924 Games, Harold hired a personal coach, Sam Mussabini, thus becoming the first British amateur to pay for a personal trainer. At the 1924 Olympics, he won a silver medal in the 4 × 100-meter (41.2), and finished in sixth place in the 200-meter finals. For the 100-meter final, his key British rival, Eric Liddell, withdrew from the competition because it was held on Sunday and Liddell was a devout Christian. Facing his main competition against Americans Jackson Scholz and Charles Paddock – the 1920 gold medallist and world-record holder – Harold surprised everyone by winning the gold medal in 10.6 seconds.
Soon after his Olympic triumph of 1924, he suffered an injury while long jumping and retired from international athletics. He remained a prominent figure in the athletics world however, and was captain of the British Olympic team (1928) and chairman of the British Amateur Athletic Board from 1968 to 1975. He also reported on athletics for English press and radio. During World War ii, he served in the Ministry of Economic Warfare, was head of the statistics section (1941–42), and in 1946 became an assistant secretary at the Ministry of Town Planning. He became one of the most famous Olympic athletes in history with the release of the film Chariots of Fire in 1981, which told of the struggles of Harold, Liddell, and Mussabini.
Philip Noel-Baker, Britain's 1912 Olympic captain and a Nobel Prize winner, wrote of Harold in 1948: "I have always believed that Harold Abrahams was the only European sprinter who could have run with Jesse Owens, Ralph Metcalfe, and the other great sprinters from the U.S. He was in their class, not only because of natural gifts – his magnificent physique, his splendid racing temperament, his flair for the big occasion – but because he understood athletics, and had given more brainpower and more willpower to the subject than any other runner of his day."
Harold wrote several books, including Sprinting (1925), Athletics (1926), The Olympic Games, 1896–1952, and The Rome Olympiad (1960).
[Elli Wohlgelernter (2nd ed.)]