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Paul Nihill M.B.E. 1939-2020

Centurions World Wide Community-current
Published in Race walking news · 15 December 2020
Tags: PaulNihill
Paul Nihill
Paul passed away at 9.00 am this morning (Tuesday, 15 December 2020) in Medway Hospital . He had complications from COVID.

Paul was not a Centurion but he was well known to Centurions and non-Centurions alike and he was so well respected that he consented to be our guest speaker at the Centurions Centenary Dinner at the House of Commons in 2011, where he gave a great address  commenting that it was the first time he had ever followed Carl Lawton!!
Paul at the Centurions Centenary Dinner

Below - Paul in action - photo from a GB vs Russia race in Battersea Park, London. (courtesy of Brian Keegan) year of race unknown
Boris Karolavich (1) 92.55 2nd
Nikolai Smaga (3) 90.40 1st
Paul (2) 93.03 (3rd)
Ron Wallwork (4)  94.50  4th

He set world track bests for 3000m 11:51.1 (1971) and 5000m 20:14.2 (1972), and road 20k 1:24:50 (1972). His numerous other British records and bests included track: 1M 6:17.0 (1970), 30k 2:28:44.0 (1972), 20 miles 2:40:42.6 (1972), and road: 10M 1:08:18 (1972), 20k 1:24:50 (1972), 20 miles 2:30:35 (1971), 50k 4:11:31.2 (1964). Other pbs: track 2M 13:16.0 (1969), 5M 34:25.0 (1969), 7M 49:03.0 (1969), 10,000m 42:34.6 (1972), 1 hour 13.671m (1969); road 10k 42:17 (1972), 30k/35k 2:23:54/2:49:53 (1972).
Peter Matthews Editor of Athletics International & International Athletics Annual

Just a few tributes from his fellow race walkers...

Paul was  one of  a very select band of race walkers who put our sport at the top of the tree in the 1960's.  
His achievements as a GB athlete were phenomenal  and his Silver Medal in Tokyo (just 17 seconds off of Gold) following on from Don Thompson's gold in Rome  Four years earlier  proved  the strength and depth we had at 50k. But Paul was equally at home doing 20k or even just 3k.
As a club mate in the 1960's I got to know his back very well  almost to the point when I was close enough...not very often....of having a conversation with his shoulder blades.  He liked to be in front and made sure that that is where he remained.
He particularly enjoyed going up hills and had a knack of getting to the top and where most would  take a short breather, he upped the pace by 10%, one reason why he won so many races.
I believe Paul started out as a boxer and when he was racing you could sense his jabs especially going up hill until at a certain point in the race he produce the " killer " punch and surge on to victory. I am sure that many of the top walkers at that time (the world over) were beaten by Paul's sheer tenacity; he was not a natural athlete but one whose determination had no equal......he had a  dry and  ironic sense of humour but liked nothing better than a good chat after a race.
His early progress was very much guided by Dickie Green (Surrey WC) who did so much for  many young walkers and novices whether they be in Surrey Walking Club or the Stock Exchange.
Sport, generally and athletics in general, did not show quite the interest or support now offered to our top performers but I suspect Paul may not have wanted it any other way........
Farewell to  a truly brilliant walker and athlete you inspired many of us.
Peter Selby (Surrey WC)

Very sad news. It was an honour to have known him. Our condolences to Paul’s family.
Malc and Angela Martin. (Surrey WC)

I also had the privilege of both knowing him and taking part in the same races as Paul albeit, in my case, some 200 places below him in the finishing order! His early life had been difficult and he found a lot of stability in boxing and then race walking.  A wonderful athlete and individual who inspired so many of us.  RIP.
Chris Flint (Centurion and Surrey WC member)
Paul at the Tokyo Olympics 1968                                          Paul at the 1964 Games                               

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