UnBlue-vable Tekkers

The Tab lists some of Cambridge’s finest sportsmen and women. YOU DECIDE who’s the greatest of them all.

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Cambridge University has a proud history of sporting success and the victories in the Varsity rugby and Boat race are indicative of the continued strength of Cambridge’s sporting sides. The Tab takes a look back at the shining lights of Cambridge sports whose “unbelievable tekkers” and hard work enabled them to reach the top of their sports.

Michael Atherton

Michael Andrew Atherton (OBE), a Downing historian, is one of the most famous names of English cricket in recent times. Having earned a Blue at the tender age of 18, Atherton was quickly noted for his leadership abilities, supposedly receiving the nickname ‘FEC’ – ‘Future England Captain’. Professionally, his leadership further stood out, as he captained England for a record 54 test matches, with a test average of 37.69, before becoming one of cricket’s favoured journalists and broadcasters.

Gavin Hastings

The 1985 Varsity winning Rugby captain came to Cambridge as a graduate student in 1984 to study Land Economy at Magdalene. Big Gav went on to gain 61 caps at fullback for Scotland, 20 of which as Captain. Frequently touted as the best player to come out of Scotland, he is the all time record points scorer for the British and Irish Lions. Upon retirement, Gavin pursued a brief foray into American football, winning the World Bowl despite a somewhat questionable performance.



Mike Brearley

Brearley played for Cambridge between 1961 and 1968 (captaining the side after 1964) while studying as an undergraduate and post-grad at St John’s. He shone while playing for the blues and was selected to captain the MCC-Under 25 tour to Pakistan in 1966. Brearley’s academic focus ensured his international career didn’t take off until 1976 when he was selected for the side at the age of 34. As an international batsman Brearley was distinctly mediocre; he averaged 22.88 in 66 innings and never bagged a century. However, his real talent was for captaincy. Brearley was a masterful man-manager and contemporaries spoke of his “degree in people”. The 1981 ashes are case in point of Brearley’s people skills. Having passed on captaincy of the side to Ian Botham in 1980 he returned to captain the side for the third test in the series after Botham’s implosion following poor performances in the first two tests. Brearley re-invigorated Botham who went onto dominate the rest of the series.

Annie Vernon

Annabel Morwenna Vernon (2.1 in History – Downing College) featured in the unsuccessful Women’s blue boat of 2003. Since then, she has been a stalwart of British rowing, achieving Gold in the Quad Scull at the 2007 World championships, followed by a Silver medal at the Beijing Olympics. Notorious for her Cornish pride, she often carries St. Piran’s flag onto the podium with her.

Ted Dexter

Ted Dexter matriculated at Jesus College in 1955 and won his first Cricket Blue in the following year. Going on to win 2 more University Matches, including one as captain, Ted was called up to the national squad in 1958 when he made a half-century on his debut. He was Wisden Cricketer of the year in 1961, the same year he became England captain. Ted stood (and lost) in the 1964 General Election against James Callaghan, a year before a car accident ended his career. He was honoured with a CBE in 2000.



Rob Andrew

Nicknamed “Squeaky”, Andrews achieved blues in Rugby and cricket while at St John’s. He was a handy cricketer scoring an unbeaten first-class century against Nottingham in July 1984 and dismissing Michael Atherton for a duck while playing for Yorkshire’s 2nd XI in 1985. Rugby was where Andrew’s talent truly lay however. He was England’s first-choice fly-half between 1985 and 1995, earning 71 caps and winning the grand slam 3 times. After retiring from his rugby career Andrews has remained in the sport and is currently the RFU’s Director of Elite Rugby. Commentators, such as Brian Moore, have been critical of Andrew and laid some of the blame for English rugby’s recent malaise at his feet.

Alistair Hignell

A true giant on and off the pitch Hignell was a dual blue in rugby and cricket four times while at Fitzwilliam college (1974-1977). While at University he represented Gloucestershire at cricket and earned 10 England caps at rugby union. After leaving university he was a teacher in Bristol, playing rugby in the winter and cricket in the summer. He gained 4 further rugby caps at full-back before retiring in 1979. During his cricket career he chalked up 11 first class centuries in 170 matches, including a ton against the Windies, before retiring in 1983. After retirement Hignell ploughed a furrow in journalism and worked for the BBC for 17 years. Despite being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1999, Hignell valiantly soldiered on. He continued to commentate at major sporting events while simultaneously raising funds for MS research. In 2008 he was voted the Helen Rollason award in the BBC sports personality of the year and in 2009 he received a CBE for services to broadcasting, and raising funds for, and awareness of, MS.

Harold Abrahams

While Eric Liddell’s no-show will always fuel speculation as to what might have been, Abrahams’ gold in the 100m at the 1924 Paris Olympics has been rightly recognised as a supreme sporting triumph. Abrahams matriculated at Gonville and Caius in 1920 and while at Cambridge found time to be a member of the Pitt Club and hold the position of President of the University Liberal Club. While at Cambridge he took part in the 1920 Olympics but did not enjoy much success, coming 20th in the long-jump and being eliminated at the quarter-final stage of the 100m and 200m events. Abrahams’ finest hour was undoubtedly at the Paris Olympics. Under the tutelage of professional coach Sam Mussabini, Abrahams won the 100m in a time of 10.6 seconds beating off the much-fancied American and 1920 Gold medal winner Charlie Paddock. Abrahams’ achievement along with that of Scot Eric Liddell were subsequently immortalised in the film Chariots of Fire.