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Ron Clarke remembered as great runner and ambassador

Ron Clarke
Ron Clarke lights the flame at the Melbourne 1956 Commonwealth Games.

17 Jun 2015

Australian Sports Commission Chair (ASC) John Wylie AM has paid tribute to Ron Clarke as one of the nation’s greatest distance runners and an iconic ambassador.

Ron Clarke AO MBE passed away this morning aged 78, after a battle with illness.

Clarke became famous for breaking 18 official world records, holding every world mark from the two miles to the one-hour run between 1965-72.

“Ron Clarke became an international distance-running legend in the 1960s, but he was an icon well before that time,” Wylie said.

“Australian sport will always have the image of a teenage Ron Clarke running around a capacity MCG, sparks from the Olympic torch showering down on him as he lit the cauldron for the 1956 Olympic Games.

“How fitting it was that when Melbourne hosted the 2006 Commonwealth Games, Ron was one of the final runners carrying the Queen’s Baton. Fifty years after the Melbourne Olympics, he was still carrying the torch as an ambassador for Australian sport.

“He also represented Australia in so many other ways during a remarkable and diverse life. He made contributions as a businessman, a politician and an author. He will be missed by many.”

Another image that helps define Clarke is one of Australia’s great moments of sportsmanship. During a mile race at the 1956 national championships, Clarke and John Landy tripped. Considering himself at fault, Landy stopped to check on Clarke, before chasing the field to win.

At the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games, Clarke collapsed due to altitude sickness during the 10,000m and suffered heart damage. He raced the 5000m only days later.

“Ron Clarke embodied the true spirit of Australian sport,” Wylie said. “He was a champion, one of the greatest in his fields, but in rare defeat he also demonstrated dignity and courage.”

Clarke competed at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games and 1968 Mexico City Games, claiming a bronze in the 10,000m in 1964. He also ran at three Commonwealth Games, for a total four silver medals.

Clarke was an inaugural inductee into The Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1985.

Born and raised in Melbourne, Clarke was also mayor of the Gold Coast City Council from 2004-2012.

The ASC extends its sympathies to Ron's wife Helen and his sons, Nicolas and Marcus.

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