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George Gandy Obituary
From The Times Website:
Influential running coach who helped Seb Coe to achieve three world records in 41 days and was still completing laps aged 80
Gandy applied his knowledge as a lecturer in biomechanics to his athletics coaching at Loughborough University, focusing on strength and conditioning and devising a gruelling 13-exercise gym circuit that included rope climbs, box-jumping and squat thrusts. Under his guidance Coe grew faster and stronger. Four years after enrolling as an economics and social history student at Loughborough in 1975, Coe made headlines with three world records in 41 days, over 800m, 1,500m and the mile. Two Olympic 1,500m titles and more world records would follow.
“I remember writing that note to George on the flight home from Moscow,” recalled Lord Coe. “George actually wrote a letter to me when I was in the sixth form in Sheffield, urging me to come to Loughborough.
“My dad was my main coach but he worked closely with George. The plyometrics stuff he introduced to my training was so important to my career.”
George Gandy was born in Newcastle in 1940, to George, a carpenter in the shipyards, and Elsie. When Gandy was inducted into the Loughborough sport hall of fame in 2018, he reflected on his humble beginnings. “We were so poor I had to get my school uniform from the army and navy store,” he said. “So imagine my embarrassment, this lad from Byker, when I turned up for school dressed as a submarine commander.”
At St Cuthbert’s Grammar School in Newcastle, Gandy proved himself a talented runner, setting county age group records over 880 yards and the mile. He was ranked second in the north of England, representing Gosforth Harriers.
He studied for a degree in human biology at St Mary’s University College in London. There he enjoyed more success as a runner, breaking the college mile record. After university it was his intention to teach but there was a four-year diversion, working for Lloyds Bank, before in 1971 he secured a job at Loughborough. It was in the East Midlands university town that Gandy and his wife, Stephanie, would raise their two sons, Steve, who became a management consultant, and Nick, a company director. All three survive him.
When Gandy arrived Loughborough’s cross-country club comprised only eight runners. By the 1980s as many as 168 athletes would attend his circuit training sessions. The numbers were similarly impressive on Tuesday evenings at the university track. Six efforts of five minutes with a 60-second rest was a classic Gandy winter session.
Over the decades he coached more than 80 international stars, with championship medallists such as Jack Buckner and Lisa Dobriskey among them. Athletes including Jon Brown, Kirsty Wade, Wendy Sly, Christina Boxer and Tim Hutchings also benefited from his influence. Gandy once calculated that had Loughborough students, past and present, competed as a nation at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, they would have been placed joint-eighth in the medals table.
His impact on his runners often transcended athletics. “The day before George died he spent 90 minutes talking to one of the students,” said Chris McGeorge, another former Gandy athlete, and a Commonwealth medallist, who was working as his assistant coach.
Gandy’s athletes referred to him as “the Guru” and fondly recall his sense of adventure, his terrible driving and his obsession with golf. Warmweather training locations would be selected for their proximity to a decent golf course, where he would invariably fail to put the hours of practice at his beloved Longcliffe Golf Club to good use. Close friends suggested he was a far better runner than he ever was a golfer.
He was still running aged 80. Indeed he made a point, when he reached 70, of running as many minutes as he was old every Sunday. Before a recent operation he was forced to quarantine to avoid contracting Covid19. Not to be deterred, he ran for 80 minutes that Sunday by completing lap after lap of his back garden.
Gandy served as national endurance coach from 1992 to 1998 and again from 2009 to 2013. He was twice named the British Milers’ Club coach of the year, received the Ron Pickering Memorial Award for services to athletics and in 2014 was inducted into the England Athletics hall of fame, having already been inducted into the UK Sport Coaching hall of fame.
At Loughborough he gained an MSc in human biology, teaching in the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences until 2009, in tandem with his role as director of athletics. Such was his passion for coaching, he could recall the individual performances of his athletes, even from decades earlier, with amazing accuracy.
“For his 80th birthday I made George a card with a photograph of myself, Terry Colton and the Olympian Omar Khalifa at the Hyde Park Relays in the late 1970s,” Steve Mitchell, a former student, said. “George not only remembered our times but which legs we ran.”
According to Coe, “He has enhanced, and in many cases changed, the lives of so many young people, including mine.”
George Gandy, distance running coach and academic, was born on May 10, 1940. He died of a heart attack on October 8, 2020, aged 80