STEPHEN (STEVE) MONEGHETTI, AM (26 Sep 1962 -
Steve was born in Ballarat and was educated at St Patrick’s College and the University of Ballarat. He has a Civil Engineering Degree and a Diploma of Education.
Beginning his athletic career with Ballarat Harriers, in an under 14 cross-country race in Burrumbeet, Steve ran with the Harriers for five years, before switching clubs to Ballarat YCW.
Steve steadily improved as a teenager and by 1981 he finished third in the Australian Junior Cross-Country Championships over 8km. The following year he won the title and added a third place on the track in the junior 5,000 metres at the Nationals.
He was selected to run in Korea and in Seoul he duly won his first international race over 5,000 metres in 14min.32.9 secs.
Steve continued to embrace both track and cross-country. In 1985 he finished 101st in the World Cross-Country in Portugal, the first of 29 major teams for which he was selected in a 20 year career at the very top. A few months later back in the stadium he finished 13th in the 10,000 metres at the World University Games in Kobe (Japan).
Steve’s international career began to blossom in 1986. In torrential rain and driving wind he improved more than 80 places on his World Cross debut the year before, finishing 22nd in Neuchâtel (Switzerland), coinciding with the start of African dominance of this event. He won the World University cross-country title
Steve was selected for the 10,000 metres at the 1986 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, eventually placing 5th in 28min.29.20. After the team was entered, as was possible in those days, Steve was included in the marathon with an excellent outcome – a bronze medal in 2hrs 11:18 in an auspicious debut.
The 1987 World Cross was held in Poland and Steve again improved - to finish 11th. In August he ran his first World Championships marathon in Rome. In high humidity Steve was a precocious fourth in 2hrs 12:49 - just a minute behind race winner Kenya’s Douglas Wakihuri, the beginning of a fine rivalry between the two.
In the 1988 World Cross Steve was 21st. High hopes were held for him and Rob de Castella for that year’s Olympics in Seoul. The race began at 2.30pm in 25 degree temperatures which told on the runners. Steve and ‘Deek’ were up with the leaders but both were dropped at 30km. The podium from Rome was repeated, although in a different order. Steve held on, to once again make his presence felt, finishing fifth in 2hrs 11:49 with Deek just behind in 8th.
Stavanger (Norway) hosted the 1989 World Cross on a very wet and muddy golf course. Steve was by then at home in what is regarded as the toughest of all IAAF competitions, running a superb race in the conditions to finish fourth behind Kenya’s Olympic champion John Ngugi.
The year’s World Cup was held in Barcelona and Steve was there again representing Oceania. He was a creditable sixth in 28mins 16.83, 11 seconds behind winner Salvatore Antibo.
In December Steve achieved a career goal, winning the iconic Zatopek 10 in Melbourne in 27min 55.05. It was the first of four consecutive wins for the Ballarat boy.
The 1990 Commonwealth Games in Auckland were held in good conditions and Steve ran an excellent race to take silver in 2hrs 20:34, just seven seconds adrift of Wakihuri.
Later that year there was victory in the prestigious Berlin marathon in a personal best 2hrs 8:16. This was a special occasion as the Berlin Wall had come down a year earlier and the race joined the former east and west.
After rarely missing a World Cross in 1990, Steve was in Belgium for the 1991 edition and finished 15th - behind 13 Africans and a Spaniard, a regular scenario by-then.
Steve was rightly one of the favourites for the 1991 World Championships marathon in Tokyo. But by at 6am for the start of the race, the temperature was already 26 degrees and Steve proved not to be a major factor, yet still finished 11th in 2hrs 19:18.
The 1992 World Cross was held in Boston (USA) on another tough course and in falling snow. Steve ran a great race and was again top ten – sixth behind only Africans including five-time winner Ngugi.
Once again the Olympic marathon was held in hot weather and a long uphill climb to finish in the iconic Barcelona Stadium. The heat took its toll and Steve finished 48th. He was devastated.
Steve ran the 10,000 metres at the 1993 Stuttgart World Championships. There was nothing special there but a month later came a superb silver in 1hr 1:11 behind the host country’s Vincent Rousseau at the World Half Marathon in Brussels.
Gold finally came at the 1994 Commonwealth marathon in Victoria (Canada) completing the full set of Games medals in the event. Steve won in 2hrs 11:49, beating team mate Sean Quilty by over three minutes.
In 1995 there was another top ten finish at the Goteborg (Sweden) World Championships - 8th in 2hrs 16:13. 1996 delivered a 7th place at the Atlanta Olympics after 16th in the World Cross in Cape Town (South Africa).
1997 began inauspiciously at the World Cross in Turin (Italy). It was not one of Steve’s better races as he slipped to a 46th place finish. However it was a prelude to one of his great achievements. At the year’s World Championships in Greece in predictably hot weather and on the tough Marathon to Athens course there came a bronze medal in 2hrs 14:16. It was heroic stuff.
Steve once again dropped back to the track for the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and on the first day of athletics competition inspired a team medal rush when he unexpectedly finished third in 29min 02.76.
The 1999 World Championships in Seville (Spain) would be his last World Championship. Again it was very hot and Steve was well back in 29th spot.
Although by then a 38 year old veteran, Sydney in the year 2000 was irresistible and Steve saddled up for his fourth Olympics. He honoured the occasion, again a top ten finisher - in 2hrs 14:50.
His extraordinary international career was over after two more World Cross Country Championships, both held in Belgium – still mixing it with the sport’s best for 41st in 2001 in Ostend and 30th in 2004 in Brussels.
Steve continued to compete and in 2010 he was third in the Australian Half Marathon Championships in 1hr 7:53, the last (so far!) of his 20 national championship medals across track, road and cross country.
His most significant personal best are noteworthy: 5,000m – 13m 25.77 (1996); 10,000m – 27m 47.69 (1992); half marathon – 1hr 00:06 (1993) and marathon 2hrs 08:16 (1990).
During his career Steve also won the City to Surf in Sydney four times and then found time in semi-retirement to give back to the sport in other ways - including as mayor of the Melbourne Commonwealth Games Village in 2006 and as Chef de Mission of the Australian Commonwealth Team in New Delhi 2010 and Glasgow 2014.
Paul Jenes OAM
Athletics Australia Statistician
Acknowledgements: Mark Butler, IAAF Statistics Book Moscow 2013; IAAF Athletics Statistics Book, Athens 2004; IAAF World Cup in Athletics; The Toughest Race in the World, IAAF Cross Country; Peter Matthews, Athletics 1994 – ATFS; Paul Jenes, Fields of Green, Lanes of Gold; Bob Phillips, Honour of Empire, Glory of Sport; David Martin & Roger Gynn, The Olympic Marathon; Paul Jenes, Peter Hamilton, Fletcher McEwen & David Tarbotton, Australian Athletic Results; Rob Whittingham, Paul Jenes & Stan Greenberg, Athletics at the Commonwealth Games; Brian Roe