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London Day Sixteen early edition: Remembering Walter Winans

August 12, 1920 - ninety-years ago today. A harness race at Parsloes Park, London. The trotter Henrietta Guy was approaching the finish line as its driver cried out "Stop my horse". The horse continued to the winning post, its driver fell to the ground, having suffered a heart attack, and died. An incredible end to the life of Walter Winans, a man whose place in the history of the Olympic Games is both unsung and unique.

Winans won gold at the 1908 London Olympics at the age of 56 in the event of individual double shot running deer-shooting. And at Stockholm in 1912 he won gold in the Olympic Art Competition (for which official medals were awarded) in the mixed sculpture category with a piece called An American Trotter.

Winans' complete Olympic record can be seen at

Born in St Petersburg, Russia to American parents, Winans lived in London for most of his life and represented USA at the London Olympics without ever setting foot there. (He first visited America in 1910 at the age of 58.) A versatile sportsman in the London gentry, Winans was a member of the Bartitsu Society, whose pastime is described on their website as "Paintball Edwardian Style". Winans himself was shot through the hand at one time by a wax bullet in a mock duel.

Here's a profile of Winans from the Pittsburgh Press in August 1908, shortly after the London Olympics, and, from June of that year, a reporter's first-hand account of duelling with Winans.

Here is Wikipedia's history of Art competitions at the Olympic Games, in which medals were awarded from 1912 to 1948. If we can have hula hoop, ribbon twirling and ball balancing in the modern Olympics then surely there is still a place for Architecture - Designs For Town Planning, Literature - Epic Works and Paintings - Drawings and Water Colours.

They don't make Olympians like William Winans any more. His versatility makes Usain Bolt's absurd notion of playing Twenty20 cricket look almost sensible.

From British Pathe, here is a silent film from 1920, the "Last cine-portrait of Mr Walter Winans, the millionaire sculptor, shot and horse lover, whose tragic death all sportsmen will mourn.":