[images/square] square Tom's Biography

By the age of sixteen, Tom McNab had won a UNESCO essay medal and had written for the national press. Two years later he had represented Glasgow at football and led the Scottish Senior triple jump rankings.

On leaving the Royal Air Force with the rank of Flying Officer, he trained as a physical education teacher, and won five Scottish Triple Jump titles. Whilst teaching in Bermuda, he won seven Bermudan titles in a day, and represented the island at rugby.

In 1963 he became National Athletics Coach for Southern England and took Fred Alsop to fourth in triple jump in the 1964 Olympic Games. Two years later, in 1966, he created a national junior decathlon programme, one of whose products was Daley Thompson. In that same year, he created the Five Star Award, the world’s most successful children’s awards programme.

His 1966 book Modern Schools Athletics became a standard work, as did his seminal technical books Triple Jump (1968) and Decathlon (1972). In 1968 he delivered the world’s first technical Olympic Report and, a year later with his friend Peter Lovesey, the first bibliography of British athletics literature, covering almost one thousand books. In 1969 he won a Churchill fellowship in order to study American athletics literature.

In 1978, after coaching many world-ranked athletes in a range of events, he went freelance and began work as Technical Director of the film “Chariots of Fire”, which won four Oscars. At the same time he embarked upon a novel “Flanagan’s Run” (1982) which topped the bestseller lists here and in Europe, and was translated into 16 languages. In that same year he was declared Scottish Novelist of the Year. In 1976 he became an official IOC historian as contributor to Lord Killanin’s book The Olympic Games.

In 1979 he was approached by the British Bobsleigh Association to prepare the 1980 Lake Placid Olympic team. The aim was to improve the team’s starting-times and Tom transformed training-methods and brought athletes into the squad. This resulted in Great Britain becoming 5th fastest starters in Lake Placid, a massive improvement.

In 1983-4 he worked with Peter Jay, Michael Parkinson and David Frost to bring into being ‘TV-am’, Britain’s first commercial breakfast television station . Two years later, in 1986, he wrote the first sports-western novel, The Fast Men, which was, in 2005, declared the greatest book ever written on athletics.

In 1987 he was asked to prepare the English rugby union team for the first World Cup. Tom transformed rugby training, and in the 1992 World Cup, England achieved silver. In 1990 he moved back into athletics and formed a three hundred member athletics club in his home town, St. Albans. In 1992, and again in 1994, he was a British Coach of the Year. In 1993 he returnedto competitive athletics in hammer at the age of sixty, winning medals at national level.

In 1992, having previously written two short radio plays, he created a full-length play for BBC, Winning, which featured Brian Cox. Two years later his novel Flanagan’s Run was purchased by Miramax and he was asked by Harvey Weinstein to write the screenplay. Flanagan’s Run has recently gone into three German editions and will appear as an audio book in 2010.

In 2000 he returned to serious athletics coaching and, in 2005, turned an unknown club athlete, Greg Rutherford, into the world’s leading junior long jumper. In the same period he became a World Class Advisor for UK Sport and signed off over £20 million in Lottery grants to boxing and cycling. In 2004 he produced the McNab Report on English amateur boxing, whose recommendations he brought to reality in 2005. As a result, in 2008, British boxing experienced its most successful Olympic result of all time.

In 2002, in collaboration with Andrew Huxtable and Peter Lovesey, he produced for the British Library The Compendium Of Athletics Literature, a scholarly work covering over 1300 books on athletics.

In recent years Tom has moved on to stage plays, the most successful of which, “1936” (on the Berlin Olympic Games) has recently shown to great acclaim in London theatres. A London tour is being planned for 2010. The show never stops. He is in discussion with public service broadcasting in the USA on a major documentary sports series, has recently completed a stage play Leni (on the German film-maker Leni Riefenstahl), and is writing a novel on the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

Still very active, Tom is an enthusiastic tennis player and next year he will return to the athletics arena to compete in hammer.