The Rundown

The politicians who shone at sport

The Rundown

The death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has left a hole in the world of totalitarian regimes - but also in the world of sport.

Among his many achievements reported by the state news agency, the deceased dictator's one and only round of golf takes pride of place.

Playing a full-sized championship course in Pyongyang, and having never previously picked up a club, Kim was witnessed by 17 people going around in an astonishing 34 shots. The 38-under-par round was boosted immeasurably by the dictator's 11 holes-in-one, and we can only speculate on how the golfing record books might now look had he concentrated on the genteel sport rather than mass brainwashing and the construction of illicit nuclear weapons.

Kim's achievements  have inspired us to take a look at other world figures who have excelled in both sport and in politics.

With plenty of sports stars using their fame to win public office, we decided to limit our criteria for inclusion: if the first line of a person's obitutary focuses on their  political life rather than their sporting achievement, they're in.


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Idi Amin

Idi Amin - Boxing

The legendary dictator's bloodthirsty rule of Uganda in the 1970s is one of the most infamous totalitarian regimes in history. But while Amin's abuses of power are the harrowing stuff of legend, it is less well known that he was an outstanding sportsman in his youth.

Amin was Ugandan light heavyweight champion for nine years from 1951 to 1960, and also an outstanding swimmer and rugby player - though one British army officer colleague damned his rugby with the withering assessment that he was, "virtually bone from the neck up" despite being "a splendid type and a fine player".

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Dwight D. Eisenhower

Dwight D. Eisenhower — American Football

The American legend was not only a war hero and president, but also an outstanding American footballer. Eisenhower played as a running back for West Point military academy, and was tipped for a move into the professional game before a knee injury forced him to concentrate more fully on his military career.

So off he went to become Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces during the Second World War and, later, the 34th president of the United States. As you do.

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Boyko Borisov

Boyko Borisov - Karate

The Bulgarian Prime Minister hit the headlines earlier this month for beating Dimitar Berbatov to the country's 'footballer of the year' award. He graciously returned it, arguing that it was clearly a protest vote against dismal Bulgarian standards in the game, and considering that he is a bit-part striker for a third tier club it's hard to disagree.

Yet Borisov is well worth a place on this list in any case: he is a karate expert with a seventh dan black belt who has been coach of the national team for several years and is chairman of the Bulgarian karate federation.

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Mary, Queen of Scots

Mary, Queen of Scots - Billiards

As pretender to the English throne and mother to James VI of Scotland (who later became James I of England following the death of Queen Elizabeth), Mary was one of the foremost political figures of her era.

Yet she was also one of the great billiards players of it as well. Spending decades as a political prisoner, she perfected her technique during her incarceration and was apparently unbeatable.

Indeed, such was her dedication to the game that on one occasion her jailor and cousin Queen Elizabeth had her billiard table removed as a punishment while she was at Fotheringay Castle.

Even more poignantly, following her execution for treason her headless body was wrapped in the green baize from her own billiard table.

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Gerald Ford

Gerald Ford - American Football

Before he inherited the presidency when Richard Nixon resigned from office Ford had spent nearly 25 years as a Congressman for Michigan's fifth district, working his way up to be minority leader in the US House of Representatives.

Before his career in politics took off, however, he was one of the greatest athletes in the American college system. He played as center and linebacker for the University of Michigan, helping them to undefeated, championship-winning seasons in both 1932 and 1933 and winning a spot on the All-Star team.

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Ming Campbell

Menzies Campbell - Athletics

The former Liberal Democrat leader has been MP for North East Fife for nearly a quarter of a century, but before he moved into politics he was one of Britain's greatest sprinters.

He held the British 100m record for seven years, and represented Britain at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo as well as captaining both the British athletics teams in 1965 and 1966 and leading the Scottish Commonwealth Games team in Jamaica in 1966.

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Oswald Mosley

Oswald Mosley - Fencing

The leading light of the British fascist movement in the run-up to the Second World War was more than just an extremist right-wing ideologue. Mosley was also an outstanding fencer who represented Britain and was part of the team that won the 1937 World Championships in Paris. The design of the British Union of Fascists' notorious black shirts was even based on the simple design of the fencing jacket.

Mosley's son, Max, also has sporting connections: he is the former president of the International Automobile Federation which governs Formula One.

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Colin Moynihan

Colin Moynihan — Rowing

The former Tory minister famed for his diminutive stature was one of the best coxes in rowing for nearly 20 years. He coxed Wales to victory in the Home Countries International regatta in 1968, won gold at the 1978 World Championships and silver in the 1980 Olympics as well as coxing Oxford to victory in the Boat Race.

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Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan — American Football and swimming

Before he became famous as a right-wing American president who decided to turn down the thermostat on the Cold War, Reagan had a colourful career which included several years as a movie star.

But before he hit it big in Hollywood he was a college sports star, playing American football and captaining the swimming team at Eureka College.

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Jeffrey Archer

Jefrrey Archer - Athletics

The Tory politician has had one of the longest and most colourful careers of recent times. After spending several years as an MP he went on to become Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party, was made a life peer in 1992, and was all set to stand as the Tory candidate to run for Mayor of London in 2000.

His unmasking as a perjurer ended his political career (he lied to win a libel case against the Daily Mirror), though he is still a member of the House of Lords despite that both conviction and other allegations of wrongdoing in relation to everything from charity fund raising to the taking of three suits from a Toronto department story.

Archer was also a fantastically talented sprinter and hurdler in his youth, winning an athletics blue for Oxford and going on to represent both England and Britain - yet even back then he was once dogged by accusations of skullduggery, allegedly once managing to avoid being disqualified from a race despite making several false starts.

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Honourable mentions - including the sports stars who went into politics

Abraham Lincoln - The President whose passion, eloquence and tenacity led America out of the era of slavery was also a talented wrestler.

Chris Chataway - One of the architects of the four-minute mile (he was one of Roger Bannister's pacemakers), he became MP for Lewisham North from 1958 to 1966, and Chichester from 1969 to 1974.

Dick Spring - The former Irish Deputy Prime Minister and foreign secretary represented County Kerry at Gaelic football and hurling, while also playing rugby for Munster, London Irish and Ireland.

Jack Kemp — American Football: Bob Dole's running mate in the 1996 presidential election played 13 seasons as a quarterback in the NFL, winning back-to-back championships in 1964 and '65.

Imran Khan - Cricket: The Pakistan legend retired from the game soon after leading his nation to World Cup glory in 1992, but his efforts to get a foothold in politics have so far yet to bear serious fruit.

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Sebastian Coe - 0

Seb Coe

Sebastian Coe - The 1500m gold medal winner at the 1980 and 1984 Olympic Games stood for election for the Conservative Party in 1992, just two years after retiring from athletics, and won a seat as MP for Falmouth and Cambourne. He was booted out of office at the 1997 General Election but stayed in politics as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Tory leader William Hague before being made Baron Coe in 2000, Lord Coe in 2002 and going on to head up the London 2012 Olympics. He received a knighthood in 2006.

Teddy Roosevelt - The ultimate 'man's man' president was a keen boxer and Ju-Jitsu fanatic.

Jesse Ventura - Wrestling: The former Navy SEAL turned wrestler became a superstar of WWF wrestling in the 1980s, as well as playing roles in several Hollywood action blockbusters. He moved into politics in 1990 after his retirement from the ring, becoming Governor of Minnesota from 1999 to 2003.

George Weah — Football: The AC Milan legend narrowly lost the Liberian presidential election in 2005, but returned to stand as Vice President in 2011 alongside Windston Tubman. Tubman was demolished by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who got 90.7 per cent of the vote.

George Bush — Baseball: The US president from 1989 to 1992 captained Yale's baseball team and played in two College World Series matches.

Manny Pacquiao — Boxing: The greatest fighter of the current era was elected last year as the Filipino congressman for the province of Sarangani.

Buster Mottram — Tennis: The 1950s British tennis star and former world number 15 went into politics after his retirement, backing the National Front for many years. He was expelled from UKIP in 2008 for trying to broker a deal between the party and the BNP.

CB Fry  - Football and Cricket: The ultimate all-rounder represented England at both cricket and football, as well as equalling the world long jump record, but his political career was never as successful. He once missed out on winning a seat in Commons by 224 votes, and later turned down a bizarre offer to become king of Albania.

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