STANLEY RUPERT ROWLEY (11 Sep 1876 – 1 Apr 1924)
Stan Rowley was born in Young, NSW and began athletics at school. He competed for Ashfield, and later Sydney, Harriers and in 1897 he won the NSW 100 yards title for the first time, retaining in 1898 and 1899. He added the 220 yards title in 1899.
In October 1897 he won the Australasian 100 and 220 yards titles in Sydney in 10.0 and 22.4 seconds respectively and defended them in quicker times of 9.9 and 22.2 in 1899 at Bowen Park, Brisbane.
The AAU had decided not to send a team to the 1900 Paris Olympics as they did not have the funds but New South Wales was determined to send their man. Funds were eventually raised including £40 of Stan’s own money.
Stan took 5 months leave from his job at a shipping company and set sail on the P&O liner, Australia. On the way he competed in the British AAA championships where he made the final of the 100 yards but was beaten by Americans, also on their way to Paris. By then, very low on money Stan’s expenses to Paris were paid by the British Association.
The Paris Olympics were disorganised and chaotic, being just a part of the Paris Exposition, rather than an event in their own right. There was no main stadium, no opening nor closing ceremony and no medals. The athletics competition was held in the Bois de Boulogne - a park owned by the Racing Club of France. It is the only time in modern Olympic history when the track and field was held on grass.
At the Games, Stan finished second in his heat of the 100 metres behind eventual Olympic champion Frank Jarvis (USA) in 11.0 seconds - an estimated time, as only winners were actually timed. In the semis he was again second, behind the then best sprinter in the world, Arthur Duffey (USA) in 11.2(est).
Stan then had to compete in a repechage heat which he won in 11.0 to qualify for the final. In the four-man final Stan finished third in 11.2(est), beating Duffey who broke down whilst in the lead. All four races were held on the same day.
The following day Stan was back for the 60 metres - finishing second in his heat in 7.3 (est), before taking third in another four-man final in a quicker time of 7.2(est).
A much bigger gap intervened before the 200 metres, which was held a week later. With only two heats, Stan qualified easily winning his in 25.0 and then finished third in the final once again in 22.6(est).
As it happened, on the same day the British were short one runner for the 5000 metres teams’ race and talked Rowley into running for them. Stan agreed and as there were only two teams in the race there was a fair chance of success. Displaying all the attributes of a pure sprinter of the time, he began to walk after a few laps and still had four laps to go when everyone else had finished. He was stopped but the British team won and as a result Stan is listed as an Olympic gold medallist for the event. Stan was permitted to run as the Australian states were still British colonies in 1900, with Federation still a year away.
Stan retired from competitive athletics on his return to Australia although he did make a brief comeback in 1905 when he ran against 1904 Australasian champion Nigel Barker and visiting US champion Arthur Duffey, finishing third behind the two of them.
In 1909 Stan was elected treasurer of the Australasian Amateur Athletic Union - a position he held till his early death in 1924.
Acknowledgements: “100 Years of the NSW AAA, The Official Centenary History of the NSW AAA 1887-1897”; Reet & Max Howell – “Aussie Gold, The Story of Australia at the Olympics”; Chris Cunneen – “Rowley, Stanley Rupert”; Mark Butler - “Athletics Statistics Book”; Gary Lester – “Australia at the Olympics”; Harry Gordon – “Australia at the Olympic Games”; Paul Jenes – “Fields of Green, Lanes of Gold”; Paul Jenes & Peter Hamilton – “Australian Athletic Results”