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A pair of historic Olympic running shoes have been given new life by BBC One’s The Repair Shop.
The spikes belonged to Audrey Brown, a member of the Great Britain team that won a silver medal in the women’s 4x100m relay at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Adolf Hitler was in the stands to watch the race, which saw the German favourites lose out after their final runner dropped the baton.
The 1936 Olympics were controversial. There were numerous calls to boycott the Games, though this was rejected by British officials. This was also the Olympics in which Jesse Owens won four gold medals in track and field events.
Brown’s grandson Tom Wenham, who presented the shoes to the programme, said that while his grandmother felt uncomfortable about some elements of participating in Hitler’s Games, she was very proud to represent her country.
Brown attended the University of Birmingham, where she competed for the Birchfield Harriers, the club in which Elliot Giles is now a prominent member of. She died in 2005, aged 92. Her sporting talent rubbed off on Wenham, who represented his country at lacrosse and now coaches the men’s Olympic team.
Dean Westmoreland, the expert cobbler who repaired the shoes, said he believed running shoes at the time were typically made with Kangaroo leather. ‘It was very thin and very strong and moulded to your foot nicely,’ he said. Although he had to replace the damaged soles, he kept the originals to provide Brown’s grandson with the soles that originally touched the track in 1936.
Wenham said: ‘They’re enormously important to us because they are a tangible and physical reminder, and an opportunity for us to visualise what it must have been like for Gran to literally be in those shoes at the Olympic Games.’
‘Gran would be enormously proud,’ he added. ‘I can’t think of much that would be more personal to an Olympic sprinter than their spikes. To bring all that emotion they felt at the time to life now is incredibly powerful.’
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