Allan Wells is a former British track and field sprinter who won the 100m in the Olympics in Moscow in 1980, becoming one of the only three British athletes to win the prestigious event. He followed up his Olympic victory by becoming the IAAF Golden Sprints and IAAF World Cup gold medalist the very next year. One of the fastest sprinters of his era, he also has three European Cup gold medals to his credit. Born in Edinburgh, he received his schooling from Liberton High School. However, he dropped out as a teenager in order to begin an engineering apprenticeship. The teenager was also active in athletics from a young age and was initially a triple jumper and long jumper. In his first season of athletics in 1970, he won the Scottish junior triple jump title. He took a break from athletics for a few years while he focused on his training as a marine engineer. He returned to athletics at the relatively late age of 24 yet proceeded to become one of the finest European athletes of his era. He won two golds at the 1978 Commonwealth Games but his biggest success was at the Summer Olympics in 1980 when he clinched the gold in the 100m. In 2015, he gained considerable media attention owing to a doping allegation.
Childhood & Early Life
Allan Wipper Wells was born on 3 May 1952, in Edinburgh, Scotland. He received his early education from the Fernieside Primary School and then went to Liberton High School. He dropped out of school as a 15-year-old to pursue an engineering apprenticeship.
Interested in athletics from a young age, he was initially a triple jumper and long jumper. In 1970, his first season of athletics, he won the Scottish junior triple jump title. Over the ensuing six years his participation in athletics was sporadic as he focused more on his engineering education.
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After completing his training as a marine engineer, he returned to athletics, at the age of 24. Starting from 1976, he began focusing on sprint events. In 1977, he won the Amateur Athletic Association’s Indoor 60 meters title, and won his first of seven outdoor Scottish sprint titles.
The year 1978 was a very exciting one for him. He began the season with a win in the UK 100/200 Championships and proceeded to the Commonwealth Games in Edmonton where he finished second in the 100m behind Jamaican Don Quarrie and won the gold in the 200m ahead of James Gilkes of Guyana who came second.
During that period, British athletics was going through a low phase and when Wells performed well at the Commonwealth Games, it came as a welcome surprise for British athletics fans.
His glorious form continued in 1979 and he proceeded to win the 200m at the European Cup in Turin Italy. The victory was especially sweet as he earned it by beating the new World record holder Pietro Mennea on his home ground. At the same event he also finished 3rd in the 100m.
He began 1980 on a high note by winning the AAA’s 100m before proceeding to the Côte d'Azur to finish preparing for the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games. He performed brilliantly at Moscow and qualified for the final of the 100m where he beat Silvio Leonard of Cuba to clinch the gold medal. Aged 28 years 83 days, Wells became the oldest Olympic 100 m champion at that time. He also won the silver medal in the 200m final.
Continuing with his prolific form, he had a successful tour of Australia and New Zealand in 1981 following which he won the European Cup 100m. He then proceeded to win the 200m in the IAAF Golden sprints in Berlin and finished second to the Frenchman Hermann Panzo in the 100m. He also won the 100m at the IAAF World cup in Rome the same year.
Allan Wells won gold medals in the 100 m and 200m in 1982 Commonwealth games held in Brisbane. The following year, he won the European Cup title by winning the 200m—his 3rd one.
He suffered from injuries during the mid-1980s which hampered his sporting career. Despite his health issues he won the Inverness Highland Games 100/200 double in 1987, one of his last victories. Following his retirement from the field, he became a coach. He also works as a systems engineer.
Awards & Achievements
In 1980, Wells was awarded Scottish sports personality of the year.
He is a Member of the Order of the British Empire.
He is an inductee of the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame.
Allan Wells and his wife Margot received an Honorary Doctorate of Science from Edinburgh Napier University in 2014.
Personal Life & Legacy
Allan Wells is married to Margot Wells, a Scottish 100/100 hurdles champion, who now works as a fitness consultant.
His personal best for the 100m is 10.11 and for the 200m is 20.21, and both are still Scottish records.
He was the first baton holder for the Queen's Baton Relay for the 2014 Commonwealth Games, carrying the baton from Buckingham Palace in London.
In 2015, a scandal erupted when a BBC documentary (Panorama: ‘Catch Me If You Can’) uncovered claims of doping by Allan Wells during his successful athletics career, beginning in 1977. The documentary alleged that Wells was supplied with the anabolic steroid Stromba, or stanozalol, by the Great Britain team doctor Jimmy Ledingham. Wells vehemently denied the allegations.
This British former athlete is the last white male athlete to win the Olympic 100 meters title.