Welcome to Eureka Street

back to site


This sporting life

  • 10 August 2022
I suppose it has to be said that there was not a great deal to do in the simpler Australia of my youth: my grandchildren cannot believe that I was born pre-TV, for example. Nor can they understand my generation’s attachment to radio, but life way back then was a matter of home, school, church, sport, and not much more. I was fortunate in having sporty parents: my father was a natural athlete and swimmer who could play any game from Australian Rules football to hockey and lacrosse. My mother loved hockey and tennis, and also firmly believed that enthusiastic participation in sport was one of the secrets of having a happy adolescence, if not the main one.

Firmly baulked of my ambition to play Australian Rules football (my torpedo punt was a thing of beauty, even if I do say so myself, but now I learn it is obsolete) I followed in Mum’s footsteps and played hockey and tennis with fervour. But sprinting became my thing. Of course I lived during the era of amateurism, so all my sporting endeavours were, in a manner of speaking, home-made. I had no coach: my parents were interested, but it was my very keen paternal grandmother who produced a stop-watch, and regularly urged me on. The purchase of my first ever tracksuit was a hugely exciting experience, and my dedication (and Granny’s) was rewarded by a few cups and ribbons.

How times have changed. My eldest grandson, who is 16, has recently returned from competing in the European Under 18 Athletics Championships, which were held in Jerusalem last month. The competition was stiff, but he made it to the semi-final of the 100 metre sprint and ran the first leg of a heat-winning relay. Then he flew to Serres in northern Greece, where he took part in the PanHellenic Under 20 competition. There he managed third place in the 100 metres and ran the last leg of the winning 4x100 m relay. Re-living the past, I’ve been pleased to view the medals and ribbons.

The family has, in a sense, been with him all the way. His parents run several kilometres every day, and have taken part in the Athens Marathon three times, while his 14-year-old brother, a jump champion, trains with him. They have coaches and go to physiotherapists when they need to. Their parents make sure they get to the essential meetings. It’s