Tributes to legendary Olympic racewalker

ALBERTPR'''Albert Johnson with John Reynolds, Stuart Comish & Robbie Lambie at Onchan Park in 1967
ALBERTPR'''Albert Johnson with John Reynolds, Stuart Comish & Robbie Lambie at Onchan Park in 1967

TRIBUTES have been paid to a legendary Sheffield racewalker who has died at his home in Tasmania, Australia, aged 80.

Sheffield-bred Albert Johnson once finished third in the famous Star Walk and went on to compete in the Olympic Games and coach runners and walkers.

Albert was brought up in Sheffield and took up race walking after he was rejected by the Army when he failed his National Service medical for having flat feet.

The rejection spurred him on and he achieved great things as an athlete representing Great Britain in the 50km walk at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne and the 1960 games in Rome.

Albert, who also won the Bradford 50km and came third in the Star Walk in 1949, became known as Nid Nod - because of the nodding action of his head when he walked.

He worked as a hospital orderly in Sheffield where he became involved in training athletes, but in 1963 he moved to the Isle of Man where he worked as a psychiatric nurse.

He had a knack for spotting promising athletes and coaching them to achieve their dreams, particularly focusing on mental preparation for events.

He achieved many coaching successes including helping the first and second place winners in the 1974 Commonwealth games 30K walk to glory.

In a tribute, Robbie Lambie of Manx Athletics Club wrote: “Albert was a man with great communicating and listening skills, sensitive, humourist, a superb motivator who offered encouragement to everyone, a person with integrity and honesty and a man with impeccable manners.”

In 1972 he moved back to Sheffield and married his wife Mildred.

The couple lived in Parson Cross and had three children.

For the last 35 years of his life the family lived in Tasmania where Albert continued to coach walkers and runners including national champions, Commonwealth and Olympic representatives.

He was awarded the Tasmanian Coach of the year in 1996 and 1997, the Advance Australia Award for his “outstanding contribution” to youth and Athletics in 1991, was nominated for Senior Australian of the year in 2000 and was also awarded the Australian Sports Medal for Services to Athletics.

In 2000 he was a torchbearer at the Sydney Olympic Games.

Robbie said: ”I think Albert Johnson must be right up there with the best athletic coaches that we’ve seen.

“He was definitely in the Premier League. It’s just a shame we will not see his like again but he has left a legacy and he has certainly made his mark in a powerful and positive way. We all him owe so much.”