WHEN Allan Wells retired in the late 1980s he did so knowing that one of the many distinctions of his career was that he was never beaten in a 200 metres at the Commonwealth Games. There was one race, however, that he did not win outright.
Wells was the Olympic 100 metres champion and reigning title holder in the Commonwealth 200m when he lined up in Brisbane for the half-lap final. He stormed out of the blocks – “suspiciously fast”, wrote Sandy Sutherland in The Scotsman the next day – but ran out of steam in the final straight and was stunned to find England’s Mike McFarlane keeping him company as they bolted across the line.
McFarlane, in fact, had made up the ground so impressively that the rivals were both granted a time of 20.43secs and, with no facility for measuring their times to a third decimal point, and no visible evidence to separate them on the photographs, the race was declared a dead heat.
“That’s unusual,” the hero of Moscow 1980 told the chief judge after being informed by telephone that he was indeed the gold medallist, but so was McFarlane. Rather than being a prima donna at having to share the top spot on the podium to which he was becoming so accustomed, the Edinburgh man immediately declared that the receipt of another gold medal would encourage him to continue running, having begun to have second thoughts after a difficult period in Guildford.
Had he been upset by the result, Wells’ wife Margot, coincidentally, would have been in a unique position to sympathise, having been dead-heated in the Scottish Championships 100m final earlier that year. But it was the first time it had happened at a major championships.
Wells was not the only Scots sprinter to leave an impression on the 1982 Games – Cameron Sharp, who would be left disabled by a car accident nine years later and is the father of current European 800m champion Lynsey, won bronze in both the 100m and 200m.
Wells and Sharp had teamed up four years earlier, in Edmonton, to win a precious Scottish gold in the 4x100m relay in tandem with Drew McMaster and David Jenkins.
In the sub-tropical heat of Brisbane the Scots quartet, with Gus McCuaig taking the place of Jenkins, could not keep up with Nigeria and Canada and had to settle for bronze.
Wells, who did not attend the trials and failed to win selection for what would have been his only home Games in 1986, finished with a Commonwealth Games record of four gold medals, one silver and one bronze.