Olympic gold medallist Eric Liddell who attended Eltham College, London, pictured  second from left at school

Story of Eltham College sporting star takes to the stage

Friday, April 20, 2012
4.08 PM

One of the most inspiring stories of Olympic athletic endeavour featuring a runner who first excelled on the playing fields of Eltham takes to the stage next month.

The Olympic medal winner Eric Liddell became a household name when the story of his sporting determination and refusal to run on a Sunday was made into the 1981 Oscar winning movie Chariots of Fire, starring Ian Charleson as the athlete.

The story is now set to take to the stage at the Hampstead Theatre with Jack Lowden taking the role of Liddell.

Gold medal winner Liddell attended Eltham College, which was founded as a school for the children of missionaries. He joined the school as a six-year-old. A devout Christian, Liddell’s refusal to run the 100m which was his best event on the Sabbath in the 1924 Paris Olympics made him a celebrated name. However the movie changed the details of his Olympic endeavour, Liddell had known months in advance that the event would be held on a Sunday and made plans to compete in other races.

Liddell was known as the Flying Scotsman and gained a gold in the 400m, breaking the existing world record, and a bronze medal in the 200m.

His old school in Eltham named its sports centre in Mottingham Lane after him and pupils also honour his example of self sacrifice in the Chinese prison camp where he died in 1945 after refusing to gain his freedom in a prison swap. He asked for a pregnant woman to take his place.

During his school days at Eltham College he played for the 1st XV rugby and 1st XI cricket by the age of fifteen and starred in athletics. He captained the rugby and cricket teams and was awarded the Blackheath Cup for all-round sporting excellence.

He represented Scotland in rugby seven times after he left school.

His story will be recreated at the Hampstead Theatre from May 9 until June 16 , before transferring to the Gielgud Theatre in the West End.