• Special Olympics World Games

Wolff on hunt for family Olympic gold

Alex Perry
January 2, 2015
Frederick 'Freddie' Wolff CBE (second left) won 4x400 relay gold at the 1936 Olympic Games © Getty Images

The name Frederick Wolff won't ring bells with many sports fans but almost a century after winning 4x400 relay gold at the Olympic Games he is still passing the baton.

Freddie, as he was affectionately known, ran the opening leg of the race in Berlin in 1936 as he and team-mates Godfrey Rampling, William Roberts and Godfrey Brown not only won, but set a new European record of three minutes and nine seconds.

And now it's the turn of great grandson Daniel Wolff to fly the Olympic flag for Great Britain.

Daniel, who has autism, was selected as one of 100 athletes who will travel to Los Angeles in the summer to compete in the Special Olympics' most prestigious event, the World Games.

It takes place from July 25 to August 2, 2015 across 28 venues, including the historic Memorial Coliseum - the site of the 1932 and 1984 Olympics - and with around 7,000 athletes representing 177 countries is a huge sporting event.

Around 3,000 coaches will travel to the Games, 30,000 volunteers and half-a-million spectators will be involved and Daniel, 20, speaks excitedly to ESPN about the opportunity to represent his country at the highest level.

Daniel Wolff is looking forward to add to his family's medal haul © Special Olympics GB

"To represent Special Olympics Great Britain in LA actually means the world to me," he says. "I will try to run like my great grandfather and bring home a medal for my country. That would be fantastic."

"I had a letter through the post back in early April and I had no idea [that I would be selected to run] until then. It turned up completely out of the blue. I was really surprised."

Surrey-born Daniel, who has recently left the family home to move into his own flat in Cheam, was diagnosed with autism at an early age. The lifelong developmental disability affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people, as well as how they make sense of the world around them.

Running, he has found, helps. "I was very good at running as a youngster," he says, before joking: "I was always running away!

"Running is a nice way of getting rid of anything that I'm stressed about. Then my parents talked to me about my great-grandfather.

"I was never really sure I wanted to take running seriously as I got older because I much preferred cricket and golf."

When Wolff plumped for the athletics track, he joined Special Olympics Surrey, who started to notice some impressive times at 400m and 800m.

He also started taking part in parkrun, a company that organises free weekly five-kilometre runs around the world, and in a recent Kingston run came third of around 500 entrants with a personal best of 19 minutes, 29 seconds.

But Daniel, whose best 400m time is 58.01s and 2mins 23s at 800m, admits he needs to "step up" his training schedule next year if he is to make a name for himself in LA.

"I've put off training quite a lot recently," he says, "but it's only because I've been so busy with college and moving into my new flat.

"I have a personal trainer at the gym so I go and see him as much as I can, and I will need to take it to the next level in the New Year and in the run up to the Games.

"If I wasn't so busy, I would be training every day."

In a nice footnote, Wolff's father, Paul, tells ESPN that Freddie - who passed away six years before Daniel was born - was chairman of the Handicapped Children's Pilgrimage Trust when he was alive.

"I quite liked the link between Freddie's passion for running and his passion for children with learning challenges," Paul says. "If he was alive today he would have been a great supporter of what Special Olympics stand for.

"He would love it that another member of his family, particularly as he has autism, had taken up running."

Special Olympics is an international organisation that changes lives through the power of sport by encouraging and empowering people with intellectual disabilities, promoting acceptance for all. Click here to find out more.

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