Boot, V Patrick
Competed at: Berlin 1936, Sydney 1938 Medals: Gold 880 yards (1938) Bronze 1 mile (1938) NZ Titles: 880 yards 1936, 1938-40 1 mile 1936 NZ Records: 880 yards 1, 1936 1000 yards 1, 1936 1 mile medley relay 1, 1936 Games Records: 880 yards 1m 52.3s (1938 - heat) 1m 51.2s (1938 - final)
Vernon Patrick Boot, like many before and since, was a very fine schoolboy athlete. He attended Timaru Boys High School and in his final year (1933) broke fellow TBHS student Jack Lovelock's school record. The time of 4m 26.8s was a World record for a school boy, 17.6s faster than Lovelock's former school record. Putting Boot's effort in perspective, in 1933, the World's 18th ranked athlete ran 4m 21s for the 1 mile.
While at Lincoln College, Boot won New Zealand University titles in the 880 yards and 1 mile, setting a record for the 880 yards in 1936. He was Lincoln College recordholder over 440 yards, 880 yards, 1 mile and 440 yards hurdles. He was also a fine swimmer.
In 1936, Boot had a marvellous start to the Olympic year running New Zealand records of 2m 14 3/5s for 1000 yards and 1m 54 4/5s for 880 yards. He had run 1m 53 2/5s earlier but the record was disallowed due to a technicality with the timing of the surveying of the track. The track, itself, was okay.
Initially, he was overlooked for the Berlin Games but was added to the athletics team of Jack Lovelock and Cecil Matthews in April and duly competed.
On the trip over, Boot and Matthews suffered tendon problems that hampered their training. In England on the way to Berlin, Boot ran a heat of the 880 yards in the AAA Championships, finishing fourth.
As soon as the Games got underway, Boot was in action. He ran third in his heat of the 800m recording 1m 56.6s before finishing eighth in the semi-final, failing to qualify for the final. The tendon injury prevented him starting in the 1500m, which was eventually won by Jack Lovelock in World record time.
In 1936, Boot's best time for the 880 yards rated him in the World's top 30.
In 1937, he missed the New Zealand Championships due to illness. He won the 880 yards and finished second in the 1 mile at the British Empire Games trials at the Basin Reserve but his times were far from top efforts. He was selected for Sydney and performed with credit.
In his 880 yards heat in Sydney, Boot ran a personal best time of 1m 52.3s, establishing an Australian and British Empire Games record. In the final, Boot took the lead with 220 yards to go. He ran a way from the field winning by 20 yards. His time of 1m 51.2s broke his earlier record and would rate him number one in the World in 1938.
In the 1 mile, Boot ran second in the heat before claiming the bronze medal in the final in a fast 4m 12.6s, some 9 seconds faster than his New Zealand best. He now rated second only to the great Jack Lovelock in New Zealand miling history.
After the Games, Boot combined with Bill Pullar, Theo Allen and Cecil Mathews in an attempt to break the World 4 x 1 mile relay record. They ran in Masterton just missing the time.
He later ran a fast time to win a New South Wales 880 yards championship and started targeting the Helsinki Olympic Games in 1940. The outbreak of World War II ultimately led to the Games cancellation.
During the war, Boot served overseas in the 20th Infantry Battalion and 20th Armoured Regiment. At the time of the 1940 National Championships at the Basin Reserve, Boot had already been in training at Trentham. He ran in some service events during the war but his career was effectively over.
He died in Gisborne in January 1947 when he failed to come out of anaesthetic while undergoing dental treatment.
His name was commemorated in the 'Pat Boot Shield' which was competed for in an interclub relay style meeting annually in Canterbury until about 1980.
Profile by John Clark
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