Australia has lost a true legend today 191



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Legendary Olympian and Gold Coast mayor for eight years Ron Clarke has passed away on the Gold Coast, aged 78. The athletics champ lit the flame at the Melbourne Olympics in 1956.

During his heyday Mr Clarke was one of the best-known middle and long distance runners in the world. He broke world records one after the other, redefining the boundaries of his sport in a matter of years. The Sydney Morning Herald recalls Mr Clarke lowered the world 5,000 metres mark four times (by a total of 18 seconds) and the 10,000 metres record three times, paring it back by an overall 39 seconds.

Overall he set 17 world records, 12 of them during a 44-day tour of Europe in 1965.

Despite his speed and stamina, Mr Clarke never won a gold medal in the Olympic Games. Many say he was the greatest runner in the world but suffered cruel fate when it came to the Games.

At the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico, Mr Clarke collapsed at the end of the 10,000-metre race and came close to dying after suffering the effects of altitude. Despite training in the Alps to get acclimatised to high altitudes at Mexico City, this could not put him on par with opponents from some of the African countries, who had always run at high altitude.

Legend has it that later that year the great middle and long distance runner Emil Zatopek invited him to Czechoslovakia and gifted Mr Clarke his 1952 Olympic gold medal as he left the country, with the words, “Look after this, you deserve it”.

Mr Clarke unwrapped the package in the airport bathroom and found the medal with his name engraved in it. “I sat on that toilet seat and wept,” he said.

The Aussie hero went on to become Mayor of  Gold Coast from 2004 to 2012. He is credited with playing a pivotal role in securing the Commonwealth Games for 2018.

According to the Gold Coast Bulletin Mr Clarke maintained a robust fitness regime until recently. He became less mobile following an accident around a year ago. He also struggled with kidney and heart health. A friend of the family told the Gold Coast Bulletin that the fateful race in Mexico City had likely caused the damage.

Mr Clarke is survived by his wife Helen, two sons and grandchildren.

Share with us your memories of this sporting legend. 


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  1. Fantastic athlete and role model.I was fortunate to run in the Victorian Cross Country Championships in 1962. Ron won easily – I was not in his class or anywhere near it.

    3 REPLY
    • Allan was that the Victorian Cross Country Championships at Ballarat Race course , iff so I was running as well , he came back out onto the coarse to help me and some others who were struggling and ran the last 500 yds with us about 50 min after he had finished , A true Gentleman

  2. A legend both on and off the track , he will be missed , thank you Ron Clarke . RIP .

  3. A magnificent athlete in a time when elite athletes had to have ordinary jobs to support themselves and could accept no sponsorship because they needed to remain amateurs. And wasn’t he handsome!!

    2 REPLY
    • mike here- this has been one of my major bug bears with sport & modern sportsmen, Comparing the likes of the Warnes (good bowler) & the batters of today with batters & bowlers from yesteryear. It used to take 6 weeks sailing time to get to Europe now it takes 13 hours, that time spent in first class.

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