James Wilson

Biographical information

RolesCompeted in Olympic Games
Full nameJames•Wilson
Used nameJames•Wilson
Born2 October 1891 in Windsor, Windsor and Maidenhead, England (GBR)
Died1973 in Brent, Greater London, England (GBR)
Measurements173 cm / 60 kg
AffiliationsGreenock Glenpark Harriers, Greenock (GBR)
NOC Great Britain
Medals OG
Gold 0
Silver 1
Bronze 1
Total 2


Although he was born and lived in England, James Wilson was a dual English and Scottish international athlete. His father hailed from Aberdeen but moved south to work on a farm in the grounds of Windsor Castle where he looked after Queen Victoria’s pure-bred cattle stock. The Wilson family lived in the grounds of the castle and James and his twin brother John were educated at Windsor Park Royal School. After leaving school, Wilson served an apprenticeship with a local blacksmith. But his life took an unexpected turn in 1908 when the Olympic Marathon started in Windsor Park and the Wilson twins both took up athletics as a result of witnessing the start of the Olympic race. They both joined Slough Harriers as novices but it was James who made the quickest progress and in 1910 represented Slough at the Southern Counties Cross-country Championship. He won the North of the Thames Cross-country Championship in 1912 and a year later was runner-up in the Nationals.

Because of his father’s Scottish birthplace, Wilson was tempted north of the border by Greenock Glenpark Harriers and his first appearance on a Scottish track in 1914 resulted in him winning the first of his two Scottish 4 miles titles. Wilson did not enlist during World War I but spent the war years in Greenock working in an essential occupation. Sadly his twin bother served on the front and died in 1916 after contracting peritonitis. After the war James resumed his athletic career and was the dual Scottish 4 and 10 mile champion in 1920.

His greatest performance on the track was in the 10K at the 1920 Olympics when he stayed in contact with the great Paavo Nurmi and Joseph Guillemot to take third place, only five seconds behind the winner. He would be Britain’s last 10K medallist for 56 years until Brendan Foster repeated the feat at Montreal in 1976. Wilson also had an impressive record as a cross-country runner and won the International Championship shortly after winning his only Scottish title in 1920. He represented Scotland four times (1920-21, 1924-25) in the International race, having previously been sixth for England in 1914. In the 1920 Olympic cross-country event, he individually placed fourth and led Britain into second place in the team event. With a silver and bronze medal, he remains one of Scotland’s most successful Olympians. Wilson spent his working life as a mechanical engineer.

Personal Bests: Mile – 4:28.0 (1915); 4 miles – 20:22.4 (1920); 6 miles – 30:45.0 (1920); 10000 – 31:50.8 (1920); 10 miles – 52:04.4 (1920).


Games Discipline (Sport) / Event NOC / Team Pos Medal As
1920 Summer Olympics Athletics GBR James Wilson
10,000 metres, Men (Olympic) 3 Bronze
Cross-Country, Individual, Men (Olympic) 4
Cross-Country, Team, Men (Olympic) Great Britain 2 Silver