The borough’s newest road has been officially named Nihill Place, after Paul Nihill MBE, the Croydon Olympian who took silver in the 50km walk at the 1964 Tokyo Games.
The naming ceremony was held on Friday 19 August by Croydon Council and developer Bellway Homes, which is building a development on the new street off Grant Road, in Addiscombe.
Mr Nihill’s podium finish in the Tokyo games was a personal best time, and he was beaten by only a few yards, by an Italian athlete who set a new world record.
Mr Nihill held the world record for the 20km distance for some years, and competed in two further 50km races in the Olympics of 1968 and 1972, as well as the 20km distance in 1976. His 1968 race saw him collapse after 44km due to the high-altitude conditions in Mexico. This was his only defeat in 86 races between 1967 and 1970.
The road name unveiling was on the same day that the 50km Olympic event took place in Rio, with Team GB represented by Dominic King, a Colchester Harrier athlete who has been mentored by Mr Nihill over the years.
Mr Nihill moved to Croydon aged two in 1941, and although he now lives in Chatham (almost exactly 50km from the road that will carry his name), he has always been a proud Croydonian, retaining many links to the area. He is a life member of Croydon Harriers athletics club, and retains close links with the Sir Phillip Game Centre in Morland Avenue, where he began cross-country as a boy. He moved to walking after answering a newspaper advert, and, in his first walking race, came second to a famous competitor 30 years his senior.
The Mayor of Croydon, Councillor Wayne Trakas-Lawlor, who unveiled the new street nameplate, said: “Paul Nihill represents a breed of UK athletes who have discovered their talent whilst at school and have shown determination and courage to rise to the very top of their chosen fields. He is a very deserving recipient of this honour and it’s fantastic that over the years he has given up so much of his time to encourage others to follow in his – very fast – footsteps.”
Mr Nihill said: “It is a great honour to be recognised with such a permanent accolade. I’ve always been proud to have been raised in Croydon, and actually lived just round the corner from where Bellway is developing the new homes. Watching the Olympics in London four years ago, and in Rio this summer, is very exciting, and brings back lots of memories!”
Croydon Council’s deputy cabinet member for transport and environment, Councillor Pat Ryan, who also attended the naming ceremony, remembered Mr Nihill personally from the 1964 Olympics. Councillor Ryan said: “Paul lived in the same road as I lived at that time. I can recall joining with all the other people who lived in Whitworth Road, and giving him a big welcome home from Tokyo.”
Nathan Stevenson, regional director of Bellway Homes South London, which is developing the site into one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments and four-bedroom homes, said: “Bellway would like to thank the Mayor, Councillor Wayne Trakas-Lawlor, and especially Mr Paul Nihill for joining us and officially unveiling the road name on this special day. We are very excited to have a local sporting hero such as Paul with us today, to help celebrate the new homes being built in his hometown of Croydon.”