Walter Knox's Remarkable Life as a Professional in an Amateur World
David F. Town
Walter Knox lived in two worlds. As an outstanding track and field athlete, he won amateur championships and broke world records. However, he also explored the seedy world of matched races and it’s violent gambling culture. He played the dangerous game of the con man, hustling local hotshots. Prior to WWI, amateur officials, determined to eradicate the corrupt betting sports, demanded that an athlete be a pure and honest amateur or be banned as a reviled professional. Knox tried to have it both ways. He made his money in the disreputable matched racing world, yet still manoeuvred to enter amateur competitions. The story of his life in pursuit of both money and respect is as audacious as it is fascinating.
This is the first full length, detailed biography of a Canadian professional track and field athlete in the pre-WWI era. The pros in that era sought anonymity, quietly slipping from town to town looking for high stakes races. Few records of their exploits exist. With thorough background research on why and how this struggle to control gambling in sports evolved, David Town has crafted an engaging account of Walter Knox’s unbelievable life. Brazen matched race hustler, Canadian amateur champion in five different track and field events, twice Canada’s Olympic coach, champion wrestler, wealthy gold miner, legend on the circuit of Scotland’s highland games, developer of high school sports in Ontario, he did it all.
It was a life full of adventure; a life well worth remembering.
“Terrific... a fine piece of research and writing.” - Bruce Kidd, PhD, University of Toronto
“An outstanding work of biographical history.” - Todd Stubbs, PhD, Lakehead University, Orillia Campus
The city of Orillia, with its dynamic sports and cultural history, was an apt place for David Town to grow up. As an athlete himself, formerly a National Swim Team member and currently a record setting masters swimmer, it is not surprising he chose perhaps Orillia’s greatest athlete as the subject of his book. In tackling track and field, Walter Knox’s sport, David can speak knowledgeably: his older brother was Canadian decathlon champion. Though David is a chiropractor by profession, he has always had a love of Canadian history and has found a wealth of material to write about in his hometown. His first book, Building Character, Stories from Orillia’s Remarkable YMCA, covered a broad range of cultural history. Hot Foot is his biography of one nationally important local hero. When not in the office or writing history, David is a swim coach, YMCA volunteer and avid canoe-tripper. He lives in Orillia with his wife, Leslie and two daughters, Keltie and Jaina.
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