At the age of 20, Albert Hill of Gainsfield AC and Polytechnic Harriers finished fourth in the 4 miles at the 1909 AAA Championships; but after he won the title the following year, little was heard of him for the next three track seasons. In 1914 he sprang a surprise by finishing a close second to the American Homer Baker in the 880 yards at the AAA Championships. After serving in France as a signalman with the Royal Flying Corps, Hill won both the 880 yards and the mile at the first post-war AAA Championships in 1919 and then in August he equaled Joe Binks' British mile record of 4:16.8 seconds when he finished second in a handicap race at Glasgow.
At the 1920 AAA Championships, Hill's Olympic aspirations received a setback when, having decided not to defend his mile title in order to concentrate on the 880 yards, he was beaten by the South African Bevil Rudd. The reaction of the British selectors was that Hill was too old to attempt the mid-distance double at the Olympics. After a vehement dispute with AAA Secretary Sir Harry Barclay, Hill won his case and with a determination to prove himself he set off for Antwerp.
After a hazardous Channel Crossing, and perturbed by the inadequate accommodation, a rather bewildered Hill arrived at the stadium by lorry for the heats of the 800 metres. To add to his troubles, he found that the Belgian organizers had put all the star runners in one heat – in order, as they put it, "to give the also-rans a chance". Despite all the problems, Hill survived the heats and the semi-finals and after a great race he won the gold medal in the final with a new British record of 1:53.4 seconds. Two days later Hill concluded a magnificent double by winning the 1,500 metres, and he then won a silver in the 3000 metres race in which he himself finished seventh. Hill, at 31, was the oldest runner to win either the Olympic 800 or 1,500 metres and his confidence and own ability was well justified. He closed his long track career at the 1921 AAA Championships when he won the mile in 4:13.8 seconds, which improved his own British record by three seconds and was less than one second outside the world record.
Hill, who had been trained by Sam Mussabine and Walter George, became a coach himself on retirement and was the mentor of another outstanding miler, Sydney Wooderson. Shortly before World War II, Hill made his home in Canada, where he died some 30 years later.
Personal Bests: 800 – 1:53.4 (1920); 1000y – 2:15.0 (1920); 1500 – 4:01.8 (1920); Mile – 4:13.8 (1921); 3 miles – 14:48.8e (1913); 4 miles – 20:00.6 (1910).
Athlete Olympic Results Content