Eric Liddell’s Olympic spirit to live on at university

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The daughter of Olympic medallist Eric Liddell believes a new sports scholarship named in his honour will promote the values for which he stood.

Patricia Liddell Russell, the athlete’s eldest daughter, made a rare visit from Canada to the UK for the event at the University of Edinburgh.

Her father, whose story featured in the film Chariots of Fire, won gold in the 400m at the 1924 Paris Olympics while he was a student at the university.

The university said that the Eric Liddell High Performance Sports Scholarships will ensure that student athletes will be better able to cope with the demands of competing at the highest level, no matter what their financial circumstances.

Speaking ahead of the event yesterday, Mrs Russell, 77, applauded the scheme for supporting young athletes who may otherwise have struggled to find the money to help them reach their full potential.

She said: “I think the more young people that can use these opportunities, it can change their lives forever. This way, it’s my father’s hope, his spirit, working on, saying ‘run, run for life, run for God’.

“The aim behind the scholarship is to promote good sportsmanship in the university and it will go to somebody that embodies those ideals. I’m all for that, it’s great. I have a grand-daughter who runs and she says ‘I don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t run’. It clears the head, makes you stronger and more settled. I’m a firm believer in sport.”

Mrs Russell has also spoken of her and her sisters’ delight that their father is being honoured in such a way. “The scholarships perfectly capture his love of studying and athletics,” she said.

A major initiative to fund the scholarships begins next month, backed by two of the university’s Olympians, cyclist Sir Chris Hoy and rower Dr Katherine Grainger.

Liddell was the university’s first Olympic hero. He won gold in the 400m and bronze in the 200m at the Olympic Games in Paris 1924 while studying pure science. He refused to compete in his best event, the 100m, on religious grounds because it was held on a Sunday.

Mrs Russell visited a charitable centre in her father’s name yesterday. There, she met the Lord Provost of Edinburgh and formally opened the latest phase of a refurbishment at the Eric Liddell Centre in the city’s Morningside area.