DAVID ‘DAVE’ WILLIAM POWER (14 Jul 1928 – )
Dave Power was born in Maitland, New South Wales and developed into one of Australia’s great distance runners. Dave ran for the Eastern Suburbs Club in Sydney. In the early 1950’s he developed into a good mile runner, ranking sixth in 1954, and also a top cross-country exponent. When Dave eventually ran 4.00.2 in 1960 he became the then sixth fastest Australian miler of all-time.
Dave won the national 10,000m cross-country in Perth in 1954 and again in 1955 when it was held in Hobart. However it was not until 1956 that Dave made an impact on the track when he finished third in both the 3 and 6 miles at the Australian Championships in Melbourne and then gaining Olympic selection for the 10,000m after running 29.32.2 in October.
The 1956 Melbourne Olympic 10,000 metres was on the first day of track and field and was highlighted by the front running tactics of the Soviet runner Vladimir Kuts. A Ukrainian running for the USSR, Kuts ran his opposition into the ground to win the first of his two gold medals. However behind him the internationally inexperienced Dave ran a determined and sensible race to finish seventh in 29.49.6.
In 1957 Dave finished second in the 6 miles and third in the 3 miles at the Nationals and later in the year finished a most creditable second behind New Zealand’s Murray Halberg in the Australian Cross-Country Championships in Brisbane.
The following year saw Dave take his first national track title when he won the 6 miles in Brisbane in 28.53.6 and finished a close second to Albie Thomas in the 3 miles. Dave was selected for the British Empire Games (Commonwealth Games) in Cardiff, Wales.
In Cardiff, the 6 miles was run in sultry heat and Dave took the lead after half way. In the last lap he fought off a strong challenge from Welsh runner, John Merriman, to win gold in 28.48.16 and set a new Empire Games record. Three days later, he ran the 3 miles, finishing seventh in 13.37.37.
Dave was also entered in the marathon despite never having finished one. He ran closely behind the leaders and at 12 miles he went to the front and was never headed to win his second gold medal in 2 hours 22.45.6.
In 1959 Dave retained his national 6 mile title on grass in North Hobart in 28.55.2 and again took silver behind Albie Thomas in the 3 miles. In August he finished second in the national cross country in Melbourne behind Bob Vagg.
1960 was Olympic year and Dave started strongly by winning the 3 and 6 miles at the Nationals and also winning the NSW 6 miles title. He was selected in his second Olympic team and had to face the heat of Rome and the best distance runners in the world.
In the 10,000m he came up against a strong trio of Soviet athletes, Yevgeniy Zhukov, Piotr Bolotnikov and Aleksey Desyatchikov and an East German Hans Grodotzki. Zhukov set the early pace but with seven laps to go Dave tried to pull away but Bolotnikov, Grodotzki and Desyatchikov were able to stay with him. With a little under two laps to go, Bolotnikov surged ahead to win the race but Dave held on for a gallant third behind Grodotzki. His time was 28.37.64 – a personal best.
A few days later Dave won his heat of the 5,000m in 14.03.17 and then finished fifth in 13.52.37 in the final won by Halberg. Once again, Dave was entered in the marathon but did not to run – his work already well completed.
Back home in 1961 Dave retained his national 3 mile title but lost the 6 miles to Bob Vagg and then finished sixth in the national cross country in Sydney.
Dave started the 1962 Commonwealth year by winning both 3 and 6 miles at the NSW championships, followed up by the national double in Sydney. In August he finished third in the national marathon championships in Perth in 2:28.40.2.
He was selected for both the 6 miles and marathon for the Commonwealth Games, also in Perth and was also honoured with the role of team captain.
Again he rose to the challenge winning silver medals in both races. In the 6 miles run in 40 degree heat, Dave finished behind young Canadian Bruce Kidd in 28.33.53 and in the marathon he was beaten by European marathon champion Brian Kilby (England) in 2:22.15.4.
Dave continued his athletic career running a 2:22.36.4 marathon in Tokyo in May before finishing fourth in the 1963 national cross country in Adelaide in August. He took silver in the 1964 national 6 miles in Melbourne but his international career was over.
Dave Power was a major force during the halcyon days of Australian distance running in the 1950s and 1960s and regularly competed successfully with and against athletes such as Les Perry, Geoff Warren, Dave Stephens, Al Lawrence, Albie Thomas, Ron Clarke, Pat Clohessy, Bob Vagg, Tony Cook and Trevor Vincent.
Paul Jenes OAM
Acknowledgements: Mark Butler - Athletics Statistics Book, Athens 2004; Cleve Dheenshaw - The Commonwealth Games, The First 60 Years; Keith Donald & Don Selth - Olympic Saga; Paul Jenes - Fields of Green, Lanes of Gold; Len Johnson - The Landy Era; Fletcher McEwen; Trevor Vincent; David Wallechinsky - The Complete Book of the Olympics; Ray White & Malcolm Harrison - 100 Years of the NSW AAA; Official History of the VI British Empire & Commonwealth Games, Wales 1958, Brian Roe