The IAAF is deeply saddened to hear that Britain’s Basil Heatley, the 1964 Olympic marathon silver medallist and former world record-holder for the distance, died on Saturday (3) at the age of 85.
Born on Christmas Day in 1933, Heatley was a promising youngster and earned podium finishes at the national level as a youth and junior at cross country. He made his marathon debut in 1956 and reduced his PB to 2:23:01 one year later, but didn’t run the distance again for six years.
Between 1957 and 1964 he made seven appearances at the International Cross Country Championships, the forerunner to the IAAF World Cross Country Championships. He won the individual senior men’s title in 1961, improving on his silver medal from four years prior.
Later in 1961 he clocked 47:47 for 10 miles, setting what was the 100th ratified world record by a British athlete. After returning to the marathon in 1963, he set a world best of 2:13:55 in June 1964, marking him as a medal favourite ahead of the Olympic Games in Tokyo later that year.
There was no stopping defending champion Abebe Bikila in Tokyo, though. Just weeks after having his appendix removed, the Ethiopian retained his title and set a world record of 2:12:11. In the race for the silver medal, Heatley passed Japan’s Kokichi Tsuburaya with just 110 metres to go inside the Olympic stadium and took the silver medal in 2:16:19.
Heatley retired at the end of 1964 but went on to work as a team manager for the national athletics team.