GEORGE Bunner, who created the groundbreaking Sportshall Athletics programme at Northwich, has been honoured by UK Athletics.
The head coach and founder of Halton and Frodsham Harriers travelled to Birmingham to accept an award for “Meritorious Service to Athletics” from UK Athletics chairman Ed Warner.
For more than 30 years Bunner has made an immense contribution to the sport. His development of Sportshall Athletics at his company’s Dock Road base revolutionised junior athletics.
He said at the time: “I noted the swimming had longer races than they had pools but weren’t put off and I thought I could do the same for athletics.”
Sportshall athletics became a competitive winter sport in its own right and as well as introducing many thousands of young people throughout Britain to athletics, it has also been successfully exported to countries with extreme climates so that they can enjoy athletics indoors under lights. It is now supported by the IAAF.
Not only has he inspired thousands of people to run, jump and throw but he has also motivated hundreds of people to pick up a clipboard, stopwatch or tape measure and volunteer.
Bunner has also developed ‘star:track’ which is now the first step into the sport for many thousands of young athletes. Many of the current Great Britain and Northern Ireland team have enjoyed Sportshall Athletics and have since gone on to world and Olympic glory.
His most famous and successful former ‘pupil’ is Paula Radcliffe. She joined Frodsham Harriers when attending Kingsley Primary and Bunner has always been proud of the fact he did not actually coach her, but let her play sandcastles in the long jump pit instead.
“Had I pressured her into running, she would probably have never come back and been lost to athletics,” he once said.