Derek Ibbotson, one of Huddersfield’s most famous sporting sons, has died at the age of 84.
The Longwood Harriers clubman passed away in a care home at Lupset, near Wakefield, last night after suffering dementia.
A bronze medalist at 5000m in the Melbourne Olympics of 1956 and the World Mile record holder – he was the first man ever to run exactly four minutes for the classic distance – Ibbotson became a great favourite with the British public and was awarded an MBE in the 2008 New Year’s Honours.
Born George Derek Ibbotson in Berry Brow on June 17, 1932, he became part of an incredible era for British middle-distance running in the 1950s.
Long-time close friend Keith Baggs – who ran alongside ‘Ibbo’ for Yorkshire Schools’ in the 1940s – described him as a “remarkable athlete”.
“Derek was a true Yorkshireman and a hell of a trainer,” he explained.
“Lots of people came to be trained by him, but none of them could live up to the training regime he did over the moors – he was a real character.
“He was a remarkable athlete, he really came to his powers when he was running.”
A student at King James’s Grammar in Almondbury , he was Yorkshire junior mile champions between 1949 and 1951 and after serving in the RAF, he shot to world class status in 1955 when he won the Inter-counties three-mile title in 13 minutes 34.6 seconds.
A year later he became AAA champion and selection followed for the Olympics, where he was on the podium behind Vladimir Kuts and compatriot Gordon Pirie.
After Sir Roger Bannister became the first man to break four minutes for the mile, Derek succeeded him as world record holder by running 3-57.2 in July 1957.
Derek ran in the Commonwealth Games of 1958 in Cardiff and 1962 in Perth.
His first wife Madeline (nee Wooller), who later married squash star Jonah Barrington, was second in the WAAA Mile in 1962 and 1963 and won the national cross-country title in 1963 and 1964. They had three daughters together, Christine, Nicola and Georgina.
Derek – who had a block of flats named after him at the top of Leeds Road (recently demolished), and was a long-time agent for Puma – went on to marry Ann and had a fourth daughter, Joanna, before Ann passed away. He has spent the latter part of his life with Lynette living in Ossett.