Olympic hero Charles ‘Chilla’ Porter, 84, dies after cancer battle

Aug 17, 2020
Chilla passed away on August 15, following a battle with cancer. Source: Facebook/Athletics Australia.

Tributes have flooded in for Australian Olympic legend Charles ‘Chilla’ Porter who passed away on Saturday at the age of 84. His son Attorney-General Christian Porter shared the sad news on Facebook yesterday, describing his dad as “the most devoted of fathers”.

“Shani and I had our entire life blessed by the most devoted of fathers and Mum got married at 19 to the most devoted of husbands and so we will always remember that wonderful loving father and husband and grandfather who lived such a fantastic life,” Christian Porter wrote on Facebook.

Chilla, born in Brisbane, became a household name in 1956 when he competed at the Melbourne Olympic Games, aged just 19 at the time. He won a silver medal in the high jump after battling it out against American Charles Dumas, and went on to compete in the Rome games in 1960.

After his high jumping career came to an end, Chilla went on to become a key figure in the Liberal Party and served as state director for the party’s Western Australian division.

Christian continued: “For the hundreds of thousands of Australians who were transfixed by the first day of the 1956 Melbourne Olympics my father was Chilla Porter, the wiry 6 foot four teenager who took part in the longest field event in the Olympics. Dad was an unknown 19year old Brisbane boy who for almost 7 hours went jump for jump with the world-record holding American Charles Dumas who had only months earlier become the first man to break the seven-foot barrier and who was the best field athlete in the world.

“Under unimaginable pressure Chilla smashed his own personal best by almost two inches and in the end just clipped the bar in his final attempt at the winning height to see Dumas clinch gold. It must truly have been something special because people of all walks of life from that time will stop me in the street 64 years later to say that they were there and still remember every jump.”

He added: “In the end one of the physically strongest men Australia has produced had his cancer go to his bones and like so many Australian families who fight the cruel things cancer does he went through far too much over the final few weeks. My Sister’s long care for Dad which let him die in his own home on the weekend has been the greatest act of kindness I have ever seen.”

Hundreds of people shared their own tributes to Chilla on Sunday after the news broke, with Christian’s sister Shani writing: “Our father loved us both dearly. He was so proud of Christian for his achievements, ALWAYS watching Parliament and collecting news clipping of Christian’s career. He will be sadly missed. WE LOVE YOU DAD!”

Another person said: “Heartfelt condolences. Chilla had such a kind heart, was always willing to help those around him and his sense of humour always brought a smile to those around him. To know Chilla was to know a man of great achievements but whose proudest achievements were his marriage and his family. Shani did such a wonderful job caring for him (and Nerida) through it all. He will be missed sorely missed.”

While another commented: “Your father was the same vintage as my husband and I, and we were in the same year at school in Brisbane, albeit different schools. We remember him with much affection. YourAuntie Penny used to keep us up to date on what he was doing. Thinking of you at this very sad time.”

President of the Australian Olympic Committee John Coates said: “Charles was a great athlete and ambassador for athletics in Australia and abroad. Winning silver in front of 60 000 fans at a home Games after a marathon high-jump competition stretching past sunset is etched into Australian Olympic folklore. My thoughts go to Charles’ family, friends and the Australian athletic community.”

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