His stunning victory in the 10,000 metres at the Edinburgh Commonwealth Games in 1970 left crowds in a frenzy and his reputation as a national hero sealed
By Alison Campsie in The Scotsman
Almost 50 years to the day since winning the gold medal in the 10,000 metres at the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, Vale of Leven distance runner Lachie Stewart is battling a new challenge after having his lower left leg amputated.
Mr Stewart, now 77, underwent surgery after a problem with his toe failed to heal and circulation in his leg started to fail.
He remains in hospital with hopes that he will be a suitable candidate for a prosthetic leg.
His son Glen, who was trained by his father and competed at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, said: “He is actually in good spirits and quite chipper.
“I think to be honest he has accepted what has happened.
“He had a shot of a prosthetic leg yesterday and he was walking around a bit with that so we will see what happens.”
Mr Stewart said his win at the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh 50 years ago had “come to define” his dad.
His win, which saw him move from third to first place in the final 300 metres at Meadowbank, was a highlight of the 1970 event with his comfortable win pushing Australian powerhouse Ron Clarke into second place.
Mr Stewart celebrated his win by kissing the Scotland team’s unoffical mascot, a giant teddy bear called Dunky Dick, with the moment one of the enduring images of Edinburgh’s ‘friendly games’.
The Scottish runner, who once said that sport “gives you stronger views of life and makes you more determined”, has faced a number of challenges in recent years.
In 2018, he suffered a cardiac arrest while swimming at his local pool and was rescued by a friend with a lifeguard then administering
Mr Stewart, who is also diabetic, then went on to have a mechanical valve fitted and a quadruple by-pass, spending 10 weeks in hospital.
His son added that his father will now be in a wheelchair until it is clear whether he is a suitable candidate for a prosthetic leg.
He added: “Dad had a sore on his toe which didn’t clear up and they removed that in March. Then he was told that his leg might have to come off during that operation if they weren’t happy with it. Dad really didn’t know what he was waking up to.https://6278e6b2f844cc419886eb9c7667c115.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
“They decided to do more work on his veins to improve circulation and but they weren’t happy with it. They said ‘you can either live with the pain or we take the lower left leg off. We can do it tomorrow or you can have two or three weeks to think about it’.
“He said ‘do it tomorrow, I can’t live like this’. The pain was so bad for him.”
He added that he hadn’t been able to see his dad for three weeks since his operation due to coronavirus restrictions at the hospital, with it hoped he will get home next week.
Mr Stewart started running at the age of 14 while at the Vale of even Academy, and competed for his Boys Brigade company in Dumbarton before joining the Vale of Leven Harriers in 1957 and becoming the first ever winner of the SCCU boys cross-country championships at Hamilton.
According to accounts, he was invited to take part in a coaching scheme for young athletes in 1960 but after high blood pressure was diagnosed in a preliminary medical examination, he was hospitalised for three weeks and advised to give up running completely.
He continued to run with his mum warning him ‘don’t you run too hard’ every time he set off.
Chair of scottishathletics, Ian Beattie, said: “Lachie Stewart’s contribution to athletics in Scotland has been immense. His incredible performance at the 1970 Commonwealth Games, in particular, has inspired the generations of athletes that have come since.
“Even those of us who were too young to remember those games will have seen footage of his bold dash for the finish of the 10000m – surely one of the most memorable moments in the sport in Scotland.
“Even after retirement, he has been an enthusiastic and encouraging figure to others, and is rightly held in fond regard by all those who meet him.
“We wish him all the best for a speedy recovery from his recent surgery and of course thank him for all he has given our sport over the decades.”