The Australian Olympic Committee has bestowed their prestigious award of the Order of Merit, on three greats of track and field at their 2018 Annual General Meeting, held in Sydney today. The accolade is awarded to a person who in the opinion of the AOC Executive has achieved remarkable merit in the sporting world, either through personal achievement or contribution to the development of sport, was conferred on Cathy Freeman, Raelene Boyle and Peter Norman.
The award was made posthumously to the late Peter Norman who nearly 50 years ago won silver in the 200m at the Mexico Olympics. His time of 20.06, remains the Australian record.
The honour was also made to Peter for his decision to stand in solidarity with American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos during their silent civil rights protest on the medal dais, an action which etched him into Australian Olympic folklore.
“This is an overdue award there is no doubt,” AOC President John Coates said. “The respect for Peter and his actions is still enormous to this day. He believed in human rights throughout his life. We lost Peter in 2006 but we should never lose sight of his brave stand that day and further as a five-time national champion, his Australian 200 metres record set in Mexico has never been matched. His athletic achievement should never be underestimated”.
Raelene Boyle , who was unable to attend, was also awarded the Order of Merit. She competed at three Olympics, and reference at the AOC AGM meeting was particularly made to the two silver medals at the 1972 Olympics Games, where she was defeated by an East German rival whose career was subsequently tainted by drug allegations.
In acknowledging her award, Raelene said from Africa where she is currently on holidays.
“I am disappointed I cannot be with you to celebrate this special occasion. It makes me feel very warm inside to think that my Olympic life is still being recognised. “
Cathy Freeman was the third track and field athlete to receive the award. After she lit the flame at the Opening Ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, she went to win the 400 metres.
She described the Order as “A very special honour. Even though my sporting career ended 15 years ago, my life continues on as an Australian Olympian and it all still gives me such great pride. I humbly extend my gratitude to the Australian Olympic Committee for the Order of Merit award.”
A fourth track and field related award went to journalist, Jacquelin Magnay , who received the Harry Gordon Memorial Award for Olympic journalism. The award was made for her outstanding reporting of the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang in February 2018. Jacquelin who now works for The Australian newspaper and is based in London was formerly with the Sydney Morning Herald and was the lead athletics writer.
In accepting her award she fondly remembered Harry Gordon as a mentor to her and also noted his role in encouraging women into journalism.
In other business at the AGM, yesterday Beijing Olympian Steve Hooker was re-elected the chair of the AOC Athletes’ Commission. Athletics Australia continues to have a seat at the AOC table with President Mark Arbib , as an AOC Board Member.
David Tarbotton for Athletics Australia