Gerard Rupert Laurie Anderson, b Brentford 15 March 1889. d France 9 Nov 1914. Holder of the first IAAF world record at 440 yards hurdles.
Born in Brentford of Scottish parents, Gerard “Twiggy” Anderson was the foremost British sprint hurdler in the years before the First World War, following almost immediately after fellow Scot, Robert Stronach, who had been the British record holder over 120 yards hurdles. Educated at Eton 1902-08, he was President of Pop, a title later held by Prime Minister Sir Alec Douglas-Home, and was Victor Ludorum with an outstanding all-round display at the 1908 Sports. Studying at Trinity College, Oxford University student Anderson won the 120 yards hurdles event in 16.0 seconds at the 1909 inter-university match against Cambridge. Anderson was a versatile runner with a strange choice of main events, being a successful 440 (49.7) and 880 yards (1:57.2e) runner in addition to his outstanding high hurdling achievements. In the 1910 national championships at Powderhall he recorded an unusual double when winning the 120 yards hurdles (16.0) and 440 yards (53.0), performances that gave indication of his vast potential over the rarely held 440 yards hurdles. A week later, he won the AAA Championship sprint hurdles race by inches from the favourite and holder, A.H. Healey, in 16.0. The Glasgow Herald reported: “This was one of the finest races of the day, as the finalists were beautiful hurdlers, and there is nothing so pretty as a hurdle race in the hands, so to speak, of accomplished and graceful runners.”
Though missing the inter-universities match due to a muscle strain, he recovered his form for the main summer races, winning the high hurdles at the Scottish championships in Glasgow, at a universities meeting in Dublin, at the AAA championships in London and the Scotland v Ireland international in Glasgow, mainly running over rain-soaked grass courses. With this period of top-class hurdling behind him, the following month, on 16 July 1910, he combined his flat speed with his impeccable hurdling style, being one of the first British hurdlers to use the modern straight leading leg technique. Competing on a grass track in the Railway Clearing House Sports at the Crystal Palace grounds in London, he raced over the rarely-run 3ft. high hurdles “with a minimum 30 yards between them”. Anderson ran and hurdled smoothly to better the unofficial 440 yards hurdles world record by 0.4 with a time of 56.8, which stood as a British record for 15 years and a World record for 10. He finished a couple of yards in front of his brother Arthur who was a Cambridge graduate and a good all-round athlete in his own right. Gerard was the first athlete to have a 440 yards hurdles world record recognised by the IAAF in what seemed to have been his one and only attempt at the event! He never had the opportunity to win a Scottish title in the event as it was not introduced onto the Scottish Championship programme until 1947, when the first four title winning runs were all slower than Anderson's run in 1910. This race was the climax of a fine season for Anderson who was undefeated over 120 yards hurdles throughout the summer.
In 1912 Anderson, the most stylish and successful of hurdlers, won his second AAA title, equalling the championship best of 15.6, after having earlier recorded times of 15.4 and a brilliant 15.2 for a British record at the London AC Spring meeting on 15 May. At the Stockholm Olympic Games that year there were high hopes of a medal but, after winning his 110 metres hurdles first round heat (16.6), disaster struck. After a good start in his semi-final race, he led from the start and, apparently looking a safe winner and automatic qualifier for the final, hit the ninth hurdle and fell headlong to the grass, out of the race and ending a promising athletics career. Anderson's pre-Games best of 15.2 would have certainly put him in contention for a medal if he had reached the final as the bronze medal was won in 15.0. He had no opportunity of redeeming himself in the 400 metres hurdles as it was inexplicably not held at that Games. The event, first held at the 1900 Paris Games, was held at every Games from then until modern times, except at Stockholm in 1912.
After becoming a Fellow of All Souls, Oxford, Anderson, aged just twenty-five, was serving with the Cheshire regiment when he was killed in action in November 1914 in what must have been one of the first skirmishes of the war. Anderson's elder brother, Arthur, also ran for Scotland and competed for Britain in the 1912 Olympic Games, progressing to the semi-finals of both the 100 and 200 metres sprint events with times of 11.0 and 22.6.