Volunteer who always strived to help the press box

RANDALL NORTHAM pays tribute to Tom McCook, who died on Friday

Tom McCook: a true torch-carrier for his sport
Tom McCook: a true torch-carrier for his sport

More than many sports, athletics relies on volunteers to keep even the biggest events running smoothly. They range from judges to marksmen, from marshals to people whose job it is to look after us, the press.

That role used to fall to Mel Batty at Crystal Palace before he went to TV, or to Stan Long, Brendan Foster’s coach, at Gateshead. And when athletics moved to Birmingham, it was Tom McCook. As well as looking after us, he also wrote for Athletics Weekly.

Sadly Tom, one of the great enthusiasts for his sport, died from a heart attack last Friday, aged 69.

Although he lived in Birmingham for nearly 50 years, Tom still had an accent that proved he was born in Inverness. But he was for many years “Mr Birchfield Harriers”.

He was the club chairman, President for 12 years and made a life member of the club in 2007. Birchfield Harriers remain one of the country’s leading clubs, discovering and developing hundreds of talented young sprinters, jumpers, throwers and distance runners every year. Tom McCook played a large part in that success.

While he would have admitted to being nothing more than a good club runner himself, he married into athletics royalty. His wife Carol is the elder sister of former Commonwealth and European champion Ian, of European indoor champion Peter and Commonwealth champion Mary Stewart

Above all, Tom was a really nice man.

On behalf of the SJA and our colleagues at the British Athletics Writers’ Association, I would like to send our deepest sympathies to Carol and all of Tom’s family, friends and colleagues at this sad time.