Vale Raymond Henry Weinberg AM (23 Oct 1926 to 30 May 2018)
Athletics Australia, with much respect, acknowledges the passing of one of the sport’s most enduring contributors – its Life Member, Ray Weinberg AM.
Ray was a most decorated and high achieving athlete in his own right but went on to make his mark as a coach and contributor in myriad other ways.
Most notably perhaps Ray went to Mexico City in 1968 as coach of the athletics team but took over as section manager when Jim Howlin took ill and then passed away from a stroke in one of the city’s hospitals. For some it would have been a massive challenge but Ray took it all in his stride and led one of the most successful Australian athletic teams at an Olympic Games.
Peter Watson MLA was a member of the 1968 Team and recalls with admiration Ray’s impact on it,
”Ray took on the Manager’s job in Mexico in challenging circumstances. He was calm, professional and gave us athletes his full support at a difficult time which was much appreciated by all of us. In my current role as Speaker of the WA Parliament I now understand how difficult it must have been to both manage and coach us. Ray was a wonderful man who will be sadly missed.”
Ray’s senior athletic career began with St Stephens Harriers in 1945 and became Victorian champion on nine occasions - with six victories in the 120 yards hurdles, one each over 220 yards and 440 yards hurdles and in 1953 in the decathlon.
He won the South Australian short hurdles gold in 1948 and was seven times National hurdles champion – in 1948 and from 1950 to 53 at 120 yards and in 1951 and 52 at 220 yards.
But Ray had aspirations, and deservedly so, to test his skills at ever higher levels. He was twice an Olympian – building on the experience of being a semi-finalist in the 110m hurdles in London in 1948 to become a finalist in Helsinki four years later in 1952.
Ray finished sixth also playing a part in both relay events. His special enthusiasm for the Games was demonstrated when he designed Australia’s first Olympic commemorative pin.
In between there was a silver medal at the Auckland British Empire and Commonwealth Games in the 120 yards hurdles - recording 14.4 seconds in both his heat and the final.
Ray represented the British Empire Team in a match against the USA in 1948, was England AAA 120 yards hurdles champion in 1952 and set Australian and Commonwealth records for both the 120 and 220 yards hurdles. His personal best for the shorter distance was 14.0 in 1952. Ray also had a PB of 23.3 for 220 yards set in 1950 and recorded 9.8 for 100 yards.
He made a final attempt at Olympic selection in 1956, running in the Trials in October but finished fourth and missed the team.
Ray’s focus was far from single-minded and launched whole-heartedly into coaching.
As AA Life Governor and distinguished hurdles coach Roy Boyd OAM observed of a man he greatly admired,
“Ray had an immense influence on hurdling in Australia, not just as a multiple Olympian, but because he was always prepared to share his knowledge with any athlete who sought his advice. Ray inspired many athletes to take up hurdling.
His own hurdling technique was a model for young athletes to follow and his contests with Peter Gardner and later, Ken Doubleday, were guaranteed to have all eyes focused on them during interclub competition at Olympic Park.
Ray was not only a great athlete and knowledgeable about his sport, but was always so friendly and sincere.”
Ray first lectured and coached at clinics in Melbourne, Sydney, and Adelaide in 1952, the same year taking his thoughts and skills to country areas as well - visiting centres such as Kerang, Echuca, Swan Hill and Mildura.
He was a prominent participant in Victorian Association clinics for two decades from 1956 and was regularly a guest lecturer and coach at national seminars during the same period, particularly the great courses at the Narrabeen Sports Centre in Sydney. He was a key member of the National Lecture and Coaching Tour of all states in 1968.
AA President from 1989 to 1996, hurdler David Prince OAM considers himself privileged to have crossed paths with a fine man,
“I was so fortunate that Ray offered me technical advice in 1962 at the Nationals whilst warming up on the banks of the Yarra at Olympic Park. Ray became my coach, mentor and family friend from that day and our families enjoyed wonderful experiences together. He organised Athletics International trips with Case Muskins to the Munich and Montreal Olympics with many athletic fans enjoying their journey with Ray. These were never to be forgotten trips thanks to RH Weinberg.
Ray contributed greatly to the ATFCA nationally as his knowledge and explanation gave other coaches and athletes both the inspiration and opportunity to share Ray’s experiences.
Ray had a wide circle of friends - including fellow Olympian, John Landy. Their stories are legendary !!!
Ray’s role at the Mexico Olympics was highlighted when he rushed to assist Ron Clarke when Ron collapsed at the end of the 10000 metres. I am sure all the Aussies in that team regard Ray’s coaching support as the best they ever received.
Those who knew Ray Weinberg have been blessed to have enjoyed his incredible friendship, passionate knowledge, leadership, and family commitment.
He will be missed but always held in the highest esteem by all. Our sport has lost a wonderful contributor and one of the most respected athletes and coaches.”
In addition to his roles with the 1968 Olympic Team, Ray was appointed as coach for the Australian athletics team to the Pacific Conference Games in Tokyo in 1969 and as senior National Hurdles Coach from the same year.
Ray also made a mark in administration in a range of roles including as vice-president of the Victorian Amateur Athletic Association and as a state selector.
He was the foundation president of Athletics International in 1969, also becoming ATFCA state president the same year and then serving as national president from 1976 to 1978 – playing a key role in the body’s formative years.
He was an active member of the committee of the Victorian Olympians Club and was the leader of the Athletics International Olympic Games Tours in 1972, 1976 and 1992.
And there was a cameo role as commentator at the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games for Network 7. He later became an information guide at the Melbourne Cricket ground – a role Ray enjoyed immensely.
Another former AA President (2005-13) Rob Fildes, will remember Ray as a fine man and a great ambassador for his sport,'
Ray was a tremendous influence over Victorian and Australian athletes and athletics in general during the 1960s in particular. This was a great era in Australian Athletics and he was a big part of it.
I was fortunate to be captain of the Victorian Team from 1969 to 1971 and always appreciated Ray's wise counsel.
Later during my time as President, Ray remained just as passionate and similarly gave me his views and thoughts on the future direction of Australian Athletics.”
Ray was acknowledged by his country with the Australian Sports Medal in 2000 and in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List two years later as a Member of the Order of Australia - for service to sport as an administrator, manager and coach, particularly through track and field athletics, and as an athlete.
He became a Life Member of Athletics Australia in 2009.
The Australian Athletics Family honours a massive contributor to the sport and extends its condolences to Ray’s wife Shirley and their children – former national junior sprint champion Brett, Tim and Michelle.
A Memorial for Ray will be held at 1.30pm on Friday 29 June 2018 in the South Room, Centre for the Arts, Trinity Grammar School, 40 Charles Street, Kew.
With thanks Brian Roe and Paul Jenes for Athletics Australia