MALCOLM Arnold OBE’s work has just been recognised by one of world sport’s biggest bodies – the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

However, you will struggle to find a man who has been more involved in Mid-Cheshire sport…and is proud to have been.

From playing football for Northwich Victoria and Winsford United, cricket for Davenham and later racing cars around Oulton Park, Arnold went on to coach athletes who became Olympic champions.

Because of this, the IOC’s Lifetime Achievement award – which was presented to him by legendary pole vaulter Sergey Bubka at a ceremony in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Friday – will take pride of place at the 79-year-old’s home in Davenham.

Arnold’s coaching career saw two of his charges win Olympic gold – Uganda’s 400m hurdler John Akii-Bua in 1972 and Canadian 110m hurdler Mark McCoy in 1992 – while he also helped Great Britain’s Colin Jackson to 110m hurdles silver in 1988.

Upon his retirement in 2016, he had coached at 13 Olympic Games.

His athletes have held hurdles world records over 60m, 110m, 200m and 400m and have won more than 70 medals at major championships at Commonwealth, European, World and Olympic level.

“I’m obviously very honoured to receive the award, especially because I was recommended by my athletes and professionals I have worked with,” Arnold said.

“I have always enjoyed working with talented young people, and their serious application to their own careers has been very fulfilling for me.”

A former student of Verdin Grammar School in Winsford, Arnold was a teacher at Marple Hall Grammar School when he decided to study for his coaching exams, turning professional in 1968.

Before then, he tells the story of a varied sporting life in his younger days.

“I came from an era where we played football in the winter, some athletics in early summer then cricket for the rest of the summer,” he said.

“Nowadays, young people specialise in one sport at an early age.

“I played a lot of football at Verdin Grammar School – I played for Mid-Cheshire Schoolboys at under 15 level. We played all our games on Witton Albion’s ground.

“Later on, I played for Vics’ reserves and Winsford United. When I taught in Marple, I played for Hyde United reserves and Ashton United.

“I played cricket for the Davenham village team in the 1950s and early 1960s.

“In athletics I was a triple jumper and represented Cheshire Schools at the National Championships and came fifth on two occasions.

“As a senior, I represented Cheshire on numerous occasions in the Inter Counties Championships.

“I represented England on four occasions but was never quite good enough to reach Olympic level, so I became a coach at the highest level.”

From his first job as the Uganda Athletics Federation’s head of coaching in the 1960s, Arnold has held roles as Wales’ national athletics coach and UK Athletics’ director of coaching and development before becoming head coach at UK Athletics’ Regional Performance Centre at the University of Bath in 1998 – a role he held until retirement.

The award from the IOC is the latest in a string of honours – he was awarded an OBE for his services to athletics in 2012, was elected into Loughborough University’s hall of fame in 2014 and won a lifetime achievement award from British Athletics in 2017.

Now, having moved back to his home village of Davenham, he can enjoy retirement – but what does he plan to do with it?

“I have always been keen on motorsport and attended the first ever event at Oulton Park,” he said.

“More recently, I have participated in rallying and became Welsh Tarmac Champion (1600cc Class) in 1992.

“I’m a bit long in the tooth to rally now but I still have my cars to fiddle about with to stave off boredom. I am now a season ticket holder at Oulton.”