Welcome to Term 3. I hope you had a relaxing break with family and friends.
This week we enjoyed our Athletic Carnivals which were a great time of fun, sportsmanship and character. You will be able to read all about the details in the Sports Report when it comes out after all the points are tallied. However, this week I want to talk about a sporting event that happened almost 70 years ago!
This event happened well before I was born but it has stuck with me as the best example of legendary sportsmanship that I have ever read or learned about. As I saw our own students cheering each other on in the athletic carnivals this week, it reminded me once again about what is truly important when it comes to sportsmanship.
In the leadup to the Olympic Games held in Melbourne in 1956, the final national championships were taking place in front of 22,000 people. At that time, John Landy was the fastest runner in the world and Ron Clarke was the World Junior Champion. Something unusual and special happened during that race which Ron Clarke wrote about in his biography. Here is an excerpt from it:
“For two and a half laps the crowd watched enthralled. Robbie Morgan-Morris went through the first lap in 59 seconds followed closely by myself, Alec Henderson, John Plummer and the favourite [Landy]. At the half-mile Robbie was still there and the time was 2:02:0. I loped along behind him, anxious to finish at least among the first three runners and improve my best mile time. Soon after the third lap I took the lead and then on a bend occurred an incident that stunned everybody… Alec came up on the inside of John. He evidently tried also to wedge his way through between me and the kerb, and in doing so accidentally clipped my heel. I lost balance and went sprawling on to the track while Alec staggered on to the verge of the arena, recovered and ran on. John had no other choice but to jump over me, his spikes lacerating my right arm as he did so. I was in such a daze that I felt no pain. Within seconds the whole field was jumping over me or running wide. Then John did a foolish, but typically thoughtful thing – he came back to say he was sorry and see if I was alright. The mile title, his bid for the world record, even the approaching Olympics… all were forgotten as the champion made his spontaneous gesture to the raw stripling floundering in the cinders.”
Even back in those days sportspeople trained for years with the Olympics as their ultimate goal. John Landy put all that in jeopardy to stop and help his fellow runner, losing a vital six to seven seconds of the qualifier. Almost miraculously, John Landy made up those seconds and actually went on to win the race!
Unfortunately, John Landy sustained an injury and could not run his best during the actual Olympic Games but still landed a bronze medal in the 1500m race. Ron Clarke lit the Olympic Flame during the opening ceremony but did not compete.
John Landy won an Olympic bronze medal, became the Mayor of the Gold Coast in 2004 for eight years, and helped establish the Gold Coast Suns. However, what John Landy is most famous for is helping his fellow runner. On 3 June 2002, a statue was erected to commemorate this act of legendary sportsmanship and an excerpt from the plaque written by sports journalist Harry Gorden reads,
“A lot of people are wondering why you pulled up. The truth is of course, that you didn’t think about it. It was the instinctive action of a man whose mate is in trouble. In the record books it will look a very ordinary run for these days. But, for my money, the fantastic gesture and the valiant recovery make it overshadow your magnificent miles in Turku and Vancouver.”
Not all of our students can win or receive a place in athletics or other sporting events, but it is my hope that all of our students would exhibit legendary sportsmanship if given the opportunity.
Mike Curtis, Principal