Mussabini, Scipio Africanus (1867-1927), athletics coach

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Mussabini, Scipio Africanus (1867-1927), athletics coach

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  • Mussabini, Sam

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6 Aug 1867–12 Mar 1927


Born in Blackheath in 1867, Sam Mussabini was of Syrian, Turkish, Italian and French descent. He led athletes to 11 medals over the course of five Olympic Games. However, at the time his achievements were never fully acknowledged as athletics was prized for being an amateur sport.

Mussabini’s career in sports started as a sprinter in the 1890s but by 1894 he had moved into coaching cycling. He was also a journalist and both reported on and wrote books on billiards.
By 1908 his career as an athletics coach was underway, coaching South African sprinter Reggie Walker to Olympic gold. He followed this with a gold medal for the Polytechnic Harrier Willie Applegarth at the 1912 Olympics.

In 1913 he was appointed as the full time coach for the Polytechnic Harriers and remained as such for 14 years. During this period he coached two Harriers to Olympic medals at the 1920 Games – Albert Hill (two golds) and Harry Edwards (two bronzes). He also famously coached Harold Abrahams to two golds and a silver at the 1924 Olympics. Their story was the subject of the film Chariots of Fire.

Mussabini died from diabetes in 1927 but his contribution to sport has since been recognised in the form of an induction into the English Athletics Hall of Fame in 2011. In 1998 the Mussabini Medal was created to celebrate the contribution of coaches of UK performers who have achieved international success.


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