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Saturday, 25 September 2010

Lillian Board and France's Colette Besson




Lillian Board was born in Durban South Africa on December 13th 1948. Her parents returned to their native Britain in 1950 before Lilian was two.



I was a seven year old schoolboy when I first heard the name Lillian Board. We all knew that this nineteen year old athlete was Great Britain’s new golden girl of the track and the Mexico 1968 Olympics was the first games I remember because my junior school teacher, mister Larter, had made a chart that he stuck on the classroom wall. It contained a column of circles: Yellow for gold, Grey for silver and red for bronze. Each morning he would revise the chart and stick Great Britain’s new medals on the chart. We all expected gold for Lillian but got a grey for silver because a French lady called Colette Besson pipped Lilian right on the finishing line. Still Lillian was only nineteen and not yet at her peak. Our golden girl would be better in Munich 1972 - roll on Munich.


In the mean time Lillian Board and Colette Besson would have some fine duels on the track. In the following year Lillian won the European 800 m title and the 4x 400m rely title pipping Colette Besson during the final stages – a roll reversal of the Olympics. Again, Brits were excited and saying roll on Munich.


Before the 1970 Commonwealth Games began in Edinburgh, Lillian Board had to pull out of the games because of pains. Tests revealed a terrible illness. Lillian Board had colorectal cancer and it would tragically claim her life before the year was out on December 26 a few days after her twenty second birthday. The UK was stunned by the death of their golden girl.


She was awarded an MBE in the 1970 New Year honours list and is commemorated in Munich, where she died. An avenue bearing her name leads to the Olympic stadium.



(France’s great athlete, Colette Besson, pays tribute to Lillian in the above clip. She speaks kindly in her native French and both ladies duelled well in these bygone days. Sadley Colette, also passed away of cancer in 2005. Both are sadly missed from that era.)











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