Norman Pritchard: The Forgotten Olympian

Norman Pritchard is a "controversial" Olympian in that he is claimed by both Britain and India as having competed for them at the 1900 Olympics. Going by this, he becomes the first ever medal winner from the country. He won two silver medals in 1900 Paris Games in 200m dash and 200m hurdles. The doyen of British Olympic historians, Ian Buchanan, notes that Pritchard was a member of an old colonial family and although he was born in India, he was indisputedly British.

Norman Gilbert Pritchard was born on the 23rd of June, 1877, in Alipore, Calcutta (India under British Raj), to George Petersen Pritchard and Helen Maynard Pritchard. His schooling is unknown but he completed his graduation from St. Xavier’s College Calcutta. He lived in the fashionable Robinson Road and worked for the Bird & Co., a well known trading company.

Norman’s first love was soccer. He is known for scoring the first hat-trick in an open football tournament in India, achieving the feat for his college against Sovabazar in July 1897. Pritchard also won the Bengal province 100 yards sprint title for seven consecutive years from 1894 to 1900 and set a meet record in 1898-’99. He also set 10.0 seconds 100m record for Bengal. He later served as the Secretary of the Indian Football Association from 1900 to 1902.

In 1900, Pritchard went for a pleasure tour to England. In June, he became a member of the elite London Athletic Club. The next day he won the Club’s challenge for 440 yards hurdle. Later, he also won the 100 yards and 200 yards hurdles. Owing to these successes, he was selected to represent his club, the Bengal Presidency AC, at the British AAA Championships. The winner of this championship was to be given the opportunity to participate at the 1900 Olympics. Pritchard was runner-up in this event, and was selected to represent Great Britain at the Olympics.

He participated in five Olympics events (60 m, 100 m and 200 m sprints, and 110 m and 200 m hurdles). He performed exceptionally well, finishing runners-up in both the 200 m sprint and hurdles, only behind Walter Tewksbury and Alvin Kraenzlein, both from USA, respectively. Though he was supposed to represent Great Britain, the International Olympic Committee registered his nationality as Indian. He was awarded an honourary silver medal by the AAA and a penknife by the French Olympic Association.

He returned to India, but moved permanently to England in 1905. Later, he moved on to America, to try his hand in acting in Hollywood. He took the screen name Norman Trevor and acted alongside Hollywood legends, such as Ronald Colman in famous films like Beau Geste (1926), Dancing Mothers (1926) and Tonight at Twelve (1929).

He died penniless in California, in and out of mental asylums, presumably from a chronic brain disease, unclassified in that era on the 31st of October, 1929.

The Olympics recognize him as a representative of British India, and his medals are accredited to India. Remembering Norman!

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