John Tait (athlete)

"For other people of the same name, see John Tait."

John Lindsay "Jack" Tait (September 25, 1888 – July 10, 1971) was a Canadian athlete. Known as Canada's "Boy Wonder", he competed at the 1908 Summer Olympics in London and the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm. He was born in Toronto, Ontario.

In 1908, at just 19 years of age, Tait won his first round heat of the 1500 metres with a time of 4:12.2. Despite the relatively slow time (other heat winners ran as fast as 4:03.4), Tait won by nearly fifty yards. His time in the final was much quicker, at 4:06.8, and he finished in fourth place.

Tait also competed in the 1908 marathon and the 5 miles, failing to finish in either event.

In 1912, facing speculative news from doctors that his heart had become enlarged from eight gruelling yet successful years of training and competition, Tait finished fourth in his heat of the 1500 metres, failing to qualify for the final. He also competed in the marathon, again failing to finish.

Outside of the Olympics, Tait was perhaps the most versatile middle distance runner in North America, and one of the great milers of his era. He won a gold medal in the Mile at the Festival of the Empire held at Crystal Palace, London in 1911. He also set a new World Indoor Record for 880 yards (1 minute, 54 seconds) in 1909, and set new Canadian records for 3 and 5 miles . Tait remained an amateur and worked throughout his athletic career, running for the West End YMCA of Toronto from 1902 to 1914.

Tait was beloved among fellow athletes and fans alike for his talent, sense of fair play and great humour, counting among his friends and teammates the likes of Tom Longboat, Alfie Shrubb, writer Doug Laurie and the Great American miler Abel Kiviat. (Kiviat remained the world's oldest living Olympic medallist through the 1984 games in Los Angeles -- astonishingly, he paid tribute to Tait in an interview with Johnny Carson that year -- until his death in the early 1990s.)

In 1910, Tait ran a series of famous indoor "match" races against George V. Bonhag, the undefeated world's "indoor king". Tait defeated Bonhag in 2 of 4 races held in New York City at Madison Square Garden, and in Buffalo, NY.. In one of his victories tait not beat Bonhag after the two friends set a New World Indoor Record for 1.5 miles. Tait was later celebrated in the Great Hall of the West End YMCA at Queen and Dovercourt streets as a conquering hero.

"Jack" Tait lived on Dovercourt Rd. in Toronto's west end, where from 1903-1907 his neighbors were the Rev. Edwin Pearson family. Almost fifty years later, in 1952, one of Rev. Pearson's sons, Lester Bowles Pearson (Prime Minister of Canada from 1963-1968), let it be known publicly that Jack Tait was his first and most influential boyhood idol.

Tait is also the grandfather of Paul Gregory Williams, Canadian record holder for 3,000 / 5,000 / 10,000 metres from 1984-1994. Williams was a 3-time Olympian in 1984, 1988 and 1992, a Commonwealth Games bronze medalist (10,000 m) in 1990, and the first Canadian ever to run under 28 minutes for 10,000 metres.


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SHORT DESCRIPTION=Canadian athlete
DATE OF BIRTH=25 September 1888
PLACE OF BIRTH=Toronto, Canada
DATE OF DEATH=July 10 1971
PLACE OF DEATH=Toronto, Canada

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