Tony Nash on true sportsmanship
An Olympic champion in the two-man bobsleigh at Innsbruck 1964, Tony Nash has a unique story to tell.
Bobsleigh dates back to the late 19th century and owes its existence to British visitors to the Swiss resort of St Moritz, whose penchant for hurtling down the town’s roads in sleds eventually led to the creation of the famous Cresta Run. Yet despite the country’s influential role in the sport’s beginnings, it was not until 1964 that Great Britain won an Olympic bobsleigh gold, courtesy of Tony Nash and Robin Dixon, who also took the two-man world title that year and repeated the feat in 1965. Since then, however, the British have failed to win another Olympic gold in a sport they invented.
It was in the fabled St Moritz, in the heart of the canton of Graubünden, that Dixon, an accomplished sprinter in the late 1950s who has since inherited the title of Lord Glentoran, became acquainted with the sport. For his part, Nash went into bobsleighing after his father objected to him becoming a racing driver.
Nash and Dixon teamed up in 1960 in a four-man bob driven by Henry Taylor, who was also competing in Formula One at the time. When Taylor suffered an injury after crashing his Cooper Climax in a race, Nash took over as the driver, with he and Dixon deciding to go it alone as a two-man team.
The most enthusiastic of amateurs, they carried their equipment around the Alps in an old Land Rover. It was not long, however, before they began to make a name for themselves on the bobsleigh circuit, befriending Eugenio Monti and his all-conquering Italians, who dominated the sport at the time and helped the British duo improve their skills. And improve they did, winning an impressive bronze at the 1963 World Championships, held on the Igls track in Innsbruck (AUT), the venue for the following year’s Olympic competition.
On returning to Innsbruck in February 1964, Nash and Dixon went second fastest in GBR 1 in the first two runs, their combined time giving them the overall lead. After going third fastest on the third run, they found that a bolt on the rear axle of their sled had sheared off and that they did not have a spare. The selfless Monti came to their aid, however, lending them a bolt after he had completed his own run.
Nash and Dixon went on to record the quickest time in the fourth and final leg and take gold by 0.12 seconds from Sergio Zardini and Romana Bonagura in Italy 2, with Monti and Sregio Siorpaes 0.73 seconds behind in third in Italy 1. “Nash didn’t win the gold medal because I gave him a bolt. He won because he was the fastest,” said Monti, who received the inaugural Pierre de Coubertin Medal that year for his wonderful display of sportsmanship.