Still the youngest winner of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award, Ian Black is one of Scotland’s finest ever swimmers.
In 1958, the 17-year-old from Inverness won three gold medals at the European Championships in Hungary, followed by a gold and two silver medals at the Commonwealth Games.
This made him the first-ever Scottish winner of the famous award. He is also one of just five Scotsman to win the award, alongside Sir Andy Murray, Sir Chris Hoy, Liz McColgan and Sir Jackie Stewart.
Now 78, Black felt he was a rank outsider for the Sports Personality, with Bobby Charlton, John Charles, Stirling Moss and Nat Lofthouse all up for the award.
He said: “Kenneth Wolstenhome (legendary commentator) was suggesting, I think, that people should register their vote for Nat Lofthouse and then the people of Scotland rose up in fury. To be held in the affections of the people of Scotland was always the most important thing.”
61 years later, Black recounted how much sport has changed.
“My ceremony wasn’t particularly glitzy,” he said. “It was very simple indeed. I had no idea how much fame this catapulted me to.
“Basically, I was just a young laddie from the Highlands. There was no such thing as celebrity status back then. When I got back to Aberdeen on the train, there was nobody there, just a cleaning lady. She said, ‘well done Ian’ and then it was back to school.”
Black’s swimming career was short-lived. In 1959, he broke Vladimir Strushanov’s world record in the 400metre individual medley by four seconds.
He then went to the 1960 Olympics in Rome. He was controversially denied being Britain’s first Olympic medallist in swimming since 1908 in the 400-metre freestyle.
Black touched the finish in an identical time to Australia’s John Konrads. This was before the technology of a photo-finish was introduced, and the decision was made by seven judges.
Three judges gave the verdict in the favour of Black, three in favour of Konrads and one decided a dead-heat. Konrads was awarded the bronze.
However, by the time he was 21, he had given up swimming altogether and announced his retirement in 1962.
He cited his lack of passion as the reason to quit the sport, saying, “The burning flame of ambition has dimmed and is practically non-existent.”
In 2002, Black was inducted in the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame. However, his early retirement meant that Scotland were deprived from witnessing one of their greatest sportsmen in their prime.