Nicholls rewarded for 60 years of excellence
JC LEGEND WALTER NICHOLLS
THE SELECTION of Walter Nicholls as chairman of the Amateur Athletics Association caps a 60-year career in the service of his sport.
Manchester solicitor Nicholls follows in the distinguished footsteps of fellow Jews Harold Abrahams and Arthur Gold in leading the world’s oldest national athletics body.
Walter and his wife Marlene are members of the Sha’arei Hayim congregation of Didsbury, South Manchester. The couple have four children and nine grandchildren and are looking forward to celebrating 55 years of marriage in June.
Now 81, Nicholls joined his first athletics club, Manchester AC, at age 15, and has belonged to Trafford AC since its foundation in 1964. During his senior career, he represented Lancashire and Cheshire in the shot and his main event, the discus. He continued to compete until his mid-70’s, earning medals in the Northern and National Veteran Championships, and is hoping to resume training this year.
Nicholls began his career in athletics administration in 1958, officiating and timekeeping at athletics meetings. Nicholls lived in Israel for three years in the late 1960’s, during which time he coached athletics at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and at the Hapoel Club in Haifa. He officiated in the 1969 Maccabiah Games, and 20 years later was invited back as Chief Timekeeper for the 1989 Games. In the previous Maccabiah in 1985, Nicholls had served as GB Athletics Team Manager.
He has served roles in northern England and Great Britain team selection and management throughout the last 40 years. Nicholls has officiated at international matches and the Commonwealth Games and still officiates at athletics meetings in the north of England.
He was a director of the British Association for Sport and Law and secretary of the British Athletics Doping Committee for several years. He still chairs disciplinary panels for UK Athletics. Specialising in sports law in his professional life, Nicholls has acted in a number of high-profile doping cases. Together with Mel Watman, Nicholls is a member of the selection panel for the British Athletics Hall of Fame.
Nicholls takes over the chairmanship role after several years serving as Secretary of the AAA. “Although UK Athletics has taken over from the AAA as the sport’s governing body, we remain very active,” Nicholls commented. “We support events for young athletes across the country, such as the Marathon relay in which two 200 teams of 11-to-13-year-olds competed last year. We see ourselves as the conscience of the sport and the custodians of its history, and I hope I can further that through the setting up a national museum of athletics.”
Brian Sacks is the Jewish Chronicle’s athletics correspondent