Former international cross-country champion and Olympian Frank Sando has passed away
Frank Sando, international cross-country champion in 1955 and 1957 and two-time British Olympian, died from cancer last Saturday aged 81.
The Kent athlete was unquestionably one of Britain’s greatest distance runners. An AW statistical feature in 2007 on all-time greats written by Mel Watman named him the third-best British cross-country runner behind Jack Holden and Tim Hutchings.
Born in Maidstone on March 14, 1931, Sando first found success as a teenager, winning the Kent junior cross-country title in 1948 and the youth title 12 months later.
He was competing for Maidstone Harriers then, but after finishing national service in 1951 he became a member of Aylesford Paper Mills, the athletics club of the company he was employed by at the time, and it was the start of a glittering senior career.
In 1952 he was selected to run for Britain in the 10,000m at the Helsinki Olympics and, aged only 21, he produced one of the most courageous performances any British athletes has given.
On the third lap of the race – eventually won by Emil Zatopek – Sando was spiked from behind and lost a shoe, yet in spite of a handicap which would have seen most athletes pull out, he carried on and in his remaining shoe running on a cinder track he went on to finish fifth – setting a British record of 29:51.8.
In the run-up to the next Olympics, Sando won bronze in the 1954 European 10,000m (again won by Zatopek), together with bronze in the three miles and silver over six miles at the Commonwealth Games of the same year. Then, at the Melbourne Games of 1956, he was a disappointing 10th in the 10,000m.
Yet it was as a cross-country athlete that he will be best remembered. He competed nine times in the International cross-country championships (the forerunner to the World Cross) with positions: 1952 9th, 1953 2nd, 1954 4th, 1955 1st, 1956 2nd, 1957 1st, 1958 3rd, 1959 2nd, 1960 8th.
On home soil he was eight-times winner of the Kent Championships and achieved a great ambition in winning the English National in 1957, when the marvellous event was held at Parliament Hill Fields for the first time.
Sando, who had married in the mid-Fifties, eventually made raising a family and a career as a statistician his priorities, so retired from serious running in 1963. Moving to the marathon, he believed, would have been foolish given his relatively light training background of around 45 miles per week.
Then, after almost 30 years with the Civil Service, he retired in 1991, but before that and during the following two decades he held many posts within the Kent Athletics Association.
Sando, who leaves a wife, son, daughter and grandchildren, was not just a quite superb runner but a wonderful human being.
» Frank Sando’s funeral is at 2.45pm on Thursday October 25 at Vinters Park Crematorium, Maidstone, Kent