Sandor Iharos, Hungarian athlete; born March 10, 1930, in Budapest, died Budapest, January 24, 1996

THE range of talent displayed by Sandor Iharos ranked him among the greatest figures in athletics history. During a career in which he won 10 Hungarian titles, he broke 11 world and 14 national records, establishing himself, for a while, as a contemporary folk hero on a par with his compatriot, football star Ferenc Puskas.

Iharos joined Finland's Paavo Nurmi and American Jesse Owens as only the third man to hold world records in three Olympic disciplines (1500, 5000, and 10,000 metres). In lowering the 10,000m record to 28mins 42secs he knocked 4min 22secs from his previous best - the biggest personal percentage improvement in the history of athletics by a world record-breaker.

His eight world marks in 1955 equalled the then record for the number achieved in one year, also held by Nurmi.

Seven individual world bests were set in 14 meteoric months, from May 1955 to July 1956: 1500m (3min 40.8secs), 3000m (7-55.6), 2 miles (8-33.4), 5000m (13-40.6), 3 miles (13-14.2), 6 miles (27-43.8) and 10,000m (28-42.8). The first of these relieved Roger Bannister's greatest rival, John Landy, of the blue riband metric mile record, yet despite all that, Iharos never won the Olympic medal that was his due.

He was recalled yesterday by Ian Binnie, Scotland's most prolific record breaker of that era, who raced against him: ``Very delicately built - 5ft 10ins, but just nine stone - a beautifully balanced runner, a brilliant athlete.''

A Scottish two-mile record holder himself, Binnie met him over that distance at the White City, ``but I did not run well''. Iharos, however knocked seven seconds from the world record on the London track, with England's Ken Wood also inside the previous mark.

Attempts were made to match Iharos, England's Derek Ibbotson, and Binnie, over two miles at the Rangers Sports, the equivalent of a grand prix meeting in those days. ``The organisers wanted a handicap, but Iharos and Ibbo would have none of that - they'd have had to run a world record to have any chance,'' added Binnie. ``It was scratch or nothing.''

Iharos's final two world records were annexed in the same race, in Budapest's Nepstadion, on July 15, 1956. Three months later Soviet tanks rolled through the city, crushing the Hungarian anti-Communist uprising and with it Iharos's spirit for his sport.

Despite having been odds-on for at least one medal when the Olympics opened in November of that year, in Melbourne, Iharos, a soldier, refused to run. Vilified by some for having supported the regime, but profoundly affected by the tragedy which had befallen his country, he quit competition and left his homeland. In an abortive comeback, for the 1958 European Championships, he finished sixth at 5000m.

The following year, however, he was named ``best Sportsman in the World'' a title bestowed partly in recognition of his own talents, but also those of his coach, Mihaly Igloi, who also looked after international compatriots Laszlo Tabori and Istvan Rozsavolgyi.

He died on Wednesday of heart failure, in Budapest. He was 65.