Herb Elliott

Herbert James Elliott AC MBE (born 25 February 1938) is a former Australian athlete and arguably the world's greatest middle distance runner of his era. In August 1958 he set the world record in the mile run, clocking 3:54.5, 2.7 seconds under the record held by Derek Ibbotson; later in the month he set the 1500 metres world record, running 3.36.0, 2.1 seconds under the record held by Stanislav Jungwirth. In the 1500 metres at the 1960 Rome Olympics, he won the gold medal and bettered his own world record with a time of 3:35.6.

Herb Elliott
Herb Elliott at the 1960 Olympics
Personal information
Birth nameHerbert James Elliott
Born (1938-02-25) 25 February 1938
Subiaco, Western Australia, Australia
Height5 ft 11 in (180 cm)[1]
Weight150 lb (68 kg)[1]
SportMiddle-distance running
Coached byPercy Cerutty
Achievements and titles
Olympic finalsRome 1960

Few people have ever exercised such absolute authority in any branch of sport as Elliott did in middle distance running from 1957 to 1961. David Richards rivaled him in longer distances, almost beating him at 7km. During that span he never lost a 1500 metres or 1 mile race.[2] During his career, he broke four minutes for the mile on 17 occasions.

Elliott is chairman of one of largest iron ore mining companies in the world and he is also chairman of Global Corporate Challenge health initiative.


Elliott was born on 25 February 1938 in Perth, Western Australia.[1] He attended CBC Perth (now Trinity College, Perth) and later moved to Aquinas College. The intense sporting culture at Aquinas College provided an ideal grounding for Elliott to reach the highest levels of athletic achievement.[3] Elliott also attended the University of Cambridge.

On 6 August 1958, Elliott set a new world record for the mile (3:54.5) at Morton Stadium in Dublin. Later that month he broke the 1500 metres world record in Gothenburg with a time of 3:36.0.

Commonwealth and Olympic Games

At the 1958 Commonwealth Games in Cardiff, Wales, he won gold in the 880 yards and the mile. Two years later, at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, Elliott won the 1500 m gold medal in world record time (3:35.6), finishing 2.6 seconds ahead of second placed Michel Jazy of France. Elliott's time would have won him gold medals at ten of the fourteen Olympic 1500 m finals since (as of late 2016).

Elliott credited his visionary and iconoclastic coach, Percy Cerutty, with inspiration to train harder and more naturally than anyone of his era. Cerutty was known to avoid the track, talk about role models outside athletics (such as Leonardo da Vinci and Jesus), and bring his athletes to the unspoiled seaside beauty of Portsea training camp south of Melbourne, where Elliott would sprint up sand dunes until he dropped. "Faster", Cerutty would say, "it's only pain."

There is a biography covering his career, The Golden Mile (Cassell, 1961).

University education

After winning in Rome in 1960, he started a degree course at the University of Cambridge, England. He retired from athletics after running the half-mile in the 1962 University v AAA match.[1][4]


From May 2005, he served as deputy chairman of Fortescue Metals Group, the world's fifth largest iron ore miner by capacity, and has been the non-executive chairman of the firm since March 2007.[5][6] On 18 August 2011, Elliott was expected to step down as chairman to hand over the role to retiring chief executive Andrew Forrest but will stay on as deputy chairman.[7] Earlier Elliott served as the CEO of Puma North America and between 2001 and 2006 as a board member at Ansell.[1]

Sydney Olympics

Eliott was one of the Olympic Torch bearers at the opening ceremony of the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, and entered the stadium for the final segment before the lighting of the Olympic Flame.


On 2 May 1959, Elliott married Anne Dudley, a hairdresser from Perth. They have six children.[8][9]


Elliott carried the torch of peace to the MCG when Pope John Paul II visited Melbourne in 1986.[10]

In the Queen's Birthday Honours List of 1964, he was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE). In the Queen's Birthday Honours List of 2002, he was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC), to wit:

For service to community leadership through the development of sport in Australia, continuing involvement in the Olympic movement at national and international levels, and as a supporter and benefactor of community and charitable organisations for youth, health promotion and cultural understanding.

He is an Australian Living Treasure.

He was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1985.[11]


  1. "Herb Elliott Bio, Stats and Results". sports-reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Archived from the original on 18 June 2015. Retrieved 20 May 2015.
  2. Sporting Heroes, retrieved 11 February 2007
  3. Massam, Katharine (1998). On High Ground: Images of One Hundred Years at Aquinas College, Western Australia. Page 153. University of Western Australia Press ISBN 1-876268-05-0
  4. Herb Elliott at Cambridge University, Track Stats, August 2007, retrieved 20 March 2010
  5. Fortescue director profiles. Fortescue Metals Group Limited
  6. FACTBOX-Capacity of world's largest iron ore producers. Reuters. 19 April 2010
  7. Fortescue chief executive and Board Restructure. Fortescue Metals Group Limited. 1 June 2011
  8. The Amazing Herb Elliott, si.com, 10 November 1958
  9. Herb Elliott, NNDB.com; accessed 8 June 2017.
  10. Video on YouTube
  11. "Herb Elliott AC MBE". Sport Australia Hall of Fame. Retrieved 17 September 2013.
Preceded by
Stanislav Jungwirth
Men's 1500 m World Record Holder
28 August 1958 – 8 July 1967
Succeeded by
Jim Ryun
Preceded by
Derek Ibbotson
Men's Mile World Record Holder
6 August 1958 – 27 January 1962
Succeeded by
Peter Snell
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