Athletics Australia recently confirmed at its Annual General Meeting honours to five outstanding contributors to the sport.
Legendary coach Pat Clohessy AM was announced as a Life Governor of Athletics Australia while Max Binnington, Chris Bradshaw, Mike Hurst and Peter Lawler were all granted Life Member status.
Below are the details of their award citations. Athletics Australia congratulates them all on their richly deserved awards.
Pat Clohessy AM
Pat Clohessy’s contribution to athletics has been influential and passionate – making an indelible impression on the sport in Australia and earning accolades from around the world.
He was an accomplished athlete. In the twilight of his career at 29 years of age he was selected in the Australian Team for the Commonwealth Games in Perth. He ran both the one and three mile events, finishing seventh at the longer distance.
After a period at college in the United States where he won the NCAA Championship at the University of Houston in 1961 and 1962 and the AAU 3 miles in 1963, he returned to Australia to teach. He made an immediate impact outside the classroom as coach of the Xavier College athletics team which included amongst other talented young men – Robert de Castella.
It was the start of a coaching pathway that took Pat to the height of involvement on the international scene and eventually back to where it all began - at club and school level. It is a mark of Pat’s commitment and absolute dedication that having achieved so much as a coach and been adulated for his achievements he would choose to spend his later years so extensively at grassroots level.
Pat was an early recruit to the professional staff at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra and was a national high performance coached based there from 1982 to 1994. His relocation from Melbourne allowed Pat to work more directly with some of the nation’s finest distance talent including Krishna Wood, Simon Doyle, Shaun Creighton, Susan Hobson and Pat Carroll.
Just as he had received advice and help from John Landy in the early days of his career - a spark that inspired him to coach, Pat’s training methods and teachings in turn motivated many of Australia’s current distance coaches..
Pat took de Castella to a string of major international marathon victories crowned by the world championship in 1983 and two famous Commonwealth titles.
Pat was a national team coach for the 1980 and 1984 Olympics and the 1983 and 1987 World Championships.
Pat was a champion for athletics – and for opportunities for athletes across all events but it was in distance running from 800 metres upwards on the track, road and paddocks where he was most involved. Intrinsic to Pat’s involvement with his athletes was their well being and his encouragement of them to pursue studies as well as train,
He had an extraordinary propensity to relentlessly pursue administrators and event organisers to create chances for athletes at all levels to access more competitions and representative teams. In return he equally strongly urged athletes and their personal coaches to be ready, willing and able to take those opportunities when they came along.
Pat developed close relationships with meet and race directors around the country and also with the national selectors to whom he provided constant but realistic advice. Under Pat’s guidance Australia enjoyed a period of great success in distance running when other events were perhaps below par.
Pat was the catalyst for the establishment of Athletics Australia’s Distance Running Commission, which in its earliest years not only provided advice to the AA Board and staff but also conducted seminars and clinics.
Since being bestowed with life membership of AA in 2007, Pat has continued the work he began in 1998 at the University of Queensland track. Until very recently he was the home club’s head coach but continues to play a regular role in guiding athletes of all ages in their preparation – and still delivers athletes into the national team.
Pat used his position at UQ to assist in the reinvigoration of university athletics across the country, particularly encouraging a fruitful rivalry with Sydney and Melbourne University athletic clubs.
He has previously been rightly recognised for his special contribution to Australia sport through the Australian honours system with the Australian Sports Medal (2000) and as a Member of the Order of Australia (1988). He was inducted as general member of the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1997.
The highlight of Max Binnington’s competitive career would undoubtedly be his two Commonwealth Games medals – a silver in Edmonton in 1978 and a bronze four years earlier in Christchurch. But in reality they were just early high points in a long and still continuing devotion to his sport which has included a three year term as President of Athletics Victoria.
In 1982 when the then Australian Athletic Union inaugurated the Edwin Flack Award to recognise an athlete who had rendered distinguished service to athletics, there was no surprise that Max, a popular and effective national team captain was the first recipient.
A fine track career had just ended but there was much more to come.
The journey to date had included representation in three Commonwealth and one Olympic Games and a dual silver medal winning effort at the Pacific Conference Games in Christchurch in 1981.
In all Max competed in five Commonwealth Games events making the final on each occasion – in addition to his two hurdles medals finishing fourth as a member of the 4x400 metres relay team in 1974, seventh in the shorter relay in 1978 and in his final appearance – fifth in the hurdles in a personal best of 13.72 in Brisbane in 1982.
In Victorian and Australian Championships Max was ever present for more than 17 years. At the Nationals his early successes were two silver medals in the junior 110m hurdles but as a senior he delivered an impressive record from 1971, with a medal each year until 1981 with the single exception of 1977.
That period of accomplishment included four national titles, three silver and four bronze medals.
Since retirement from the track, Max’s contribution has been of great breadth. From his devotion to coaching and management at club level at “the Hunters” - Glenhuntly AC, of which he has been a member for more than 40 years, to administration at the highest levels in both voluntary (as a board member of AV) and professional (as a staff member of Athletics Australia) capacities to team involvement as an official.
Such dedication and commitment at club and state levels led to life membership of AV in 2012 - of which his presidency ended in 2004 when he took on the role of AA’s high performance manager. More recently there has been a role with VicSport as sport education manager.
His ongoing enthusiasm for athletics is expressed through his maintenance of his coaching accreditation and his role amongst an extensive coaching team at Glenhuntly.
Max continues to provide his services to AA and AV as required and often requested - in a range of capacities including as a member of the AA Board’s Nomination and Remuneration Committee.
He has been recognised by the Australian National Honours system through the Australian Sports Medal in 2000.
Few people have approached each of their roles in Australian athletics with as much enthusiasm as Chris Bradshaw.
As an athlete he was unstoppable – competing at each level from club to international with equal gusto and enjoyment. Perhaps typical of a decathlete, he also gave great support and encouragement to his team mates and opponents alike.
Mixing medical studies with high level athletics provided its challenges but Chris had a brief cameo of success becoming national decathlon champion in 1989 before winning the silver medal the following year. In between he earned selection for the 1990 Commonwealth Games in Auckland with a fine personal best of 7,461 points and third placing in the selection trials in Sydney.
At the Games he delivered perhaps his best performance with an excellent fifth with 7404 points.
His contribution off-field was even more significant – quickly involving himself in sports medicine and finding many ways to immerse himself in the sport he loved.
The Sports Medicine Centre at Melbourne’s Olympic Park was in the forefront of service delivery with Chris playing a key role in both treatment and prevention of athlete illness and injury. It did not matter whether an athlete or official needed assistance in or out of hours, Chris would be available to provide support.
At Victorian State League on Thursday nights, Chris would compete for his club in a range of events, often dashing off with his familiar bouncy running style to attend to another athlete in the medical room or at an event site.
He became Athletics Australia’s first semi-professional medical officer – taking on the role for a tiny honorarium but making an immense contribution. He also served on various AA commissions - including the Anti Doping Commission, where he again played a key role above and beyond the call of duty.
Chris made his mark on Australian teams as an official - both as a manager and doctor, the first time even before he made it there as an athlete.
On that first occasion, when serving as team doctor to the Australian Team to the World Junior Championships in Sudbury, Canada an athlete broke his leg during a preliminary en route competition in Europe. Chris accompanied the athlete to Australia and then immediately hopped on the plane to rejoin the team – because he believed it was the correct, proper and supportive thing to do.
After a brief hiatus from off-field team duty to pursue his own dreams, Chris returned to provide a period of extraordinary service in that regard.
In the nine years from 1992 to the Olympic Games in Sydney, there was no more committed or enthusiastic Australian athletics team official than Chris. His relationship with athletes in four Australian junior teams was legendary both as a doctor and mentor. On occasions he was formally nominated as an assistant manager but the reality was he always provided that sort of additional assistance and support regardless.
In all Chris served on ten major Australian teams in an official capacity – including as manager of the World Indoor Championships Team to Paris in 1997.
Mike Hurst began his involvement in athletics as a more than capable schoolboy and club sprinter and long jumper - but his contributions to the sport as both a coach and journalist went well beyond.
His passion and understanding of the sport were unquestionably evident in his work in both areas.
As a young journalist Mike was a prolific reporter on many sports but quickly he became most known for his writings on his own - athletics. Both at News Limited and with the then specialist publication, Australasian Track and Field Athletics he not only reported the facts but was unafraid of providing opinion as to what might benefit to the sport.
He became a permanent presence at Sydney Interclub at Hensley Field, ES Marks and eventually at Homebush and ensured that athletics was well reported in the major dailies from school and club competitions through to national meets and international competitions held in Australia.
When Athletics Australia established an office in Sydney from 1983 to facilitate the conduct of its first mass participation event, the Australian Marathon it was fortunate that it was located not far from Mike’s own workplace. His advice and support to the AA staff and to the establishment and conduct of the event during that period were significant and much appreciated.
AA’s first real forays into regular media activity were based to a large degree on Mike’s advice. It was a boom time for column inches about athletics around the country and Mike was at both the coalface and in the backroom.
Mike was as much at home dealing with weekly reporting – which gave a much higher profile and recognition to many athletes who might otherwise have passed through their careers un-noticed, as he was with busting the big stories. No story that ought to have been covered was missed – but more importantly hundreds of others got a run when others in the media may not have seen the value.
His willingness to expose behaviours and policies that he considered unhelpful to the sport or just plain wrong, contributed in no small way on many occasions to a change in direction – perhaps most notably when a noted East German coach with a doubtful past was proposed as the country’s head coach.
But he was equally reluctant to report stories which he considered might unfairly or unnecessarily burden an athlete or a contributor to the sport. He provided much advice and mentoring to both developing and established athletes on media skills and relationships.
As a coach Mike was inventive and successful. He assisted Debbie Wells during her initial career but most notably helped both Darren Clark and Maree Holland to the 1988 Olympic 400 metres finals and guided Clark to his 1990 Commonwealth gold.
But he was equally at home assisting the coaches of others and in supporting athletes at club level who were emerging along the development pathway.
He was an eager contributor with Jackie Byrnes to the StarTrack program which reinvigorated New South Wales success in relay events in the late 1980s and more recently the brains behind FastTrack which supports emerging 400 metres talent and their coaches.
Mike has received Australian National Honours through the Australian Sports Medal in 2000 for which was acknowledged for his outstanding service as an athletics coach and writer for at that time more than 30 years.
Peter Lawler is amongst the finest examples of an athlete who achieved at national level and who then continued to make a fine contribution to the sport of athletics in other ways.
He is perhaps best known as coach to Commonwealth Games champion and Olympic silver medallist, Louise McPaul-Currey and a host of other high-achieving track and field athletes but within the sport he is widely acknowledged for a very special devotion and commitment to coaching in general and coach education in particular.
Peter’s own background was in regional New South Wales and has long been a champion of ensuring opportunity for athletes and coaches from country and remote areas. He was not afraid to launch the international careers of some fine athletes from his then base in Tamworth, and even when he headed to the “big smoke”, he chose Wollongong as the location.
Peter’s own career as an athlete was a long one, opting to continue to compete in the sport at club and local championship level long after his “elite” days were over. However he was an achiever on the track himself, becoming national champion in the javelin in 1971 and winning a silver and four bronze medals in the same event between 1965 and 1974. He was many times state champion of New South Wales and earned representative honours when chosen in the Australian Team for the 1977 Pacific Conference Games.
But his team career was not over, as Peter then played important roles as a member of the staff on national teams from 1986 to 1997 including as a coach for the 1987 and 1997 World Championships and the 1996 Olympics.
He is highly regarded as a mentor of other coaches and is still regularly sought after for coaching courses and athlete development clinics around the country and overseas. Peter has served as a National Event Coach for combined events (1984-1992) and javelin (1984-2000) and for a time was employed as a high performance coach by Athletics Australia and the New South Wales Institute of Sport.
Peter also made a great impression on the careers of many young athletes, of all levels of ability, instilling a love of a sport which was so dear to his own heart. He worked tirelessly in the club system and in the course of his employment as a teacher in both the government and private systems. He has been a coach in all events since 1963, the vast majority of that time as a volunteer.
He is a life member of the Griffith and Tamworth Athletic Clubs and was accorded the highest coaching honour in Australian athletics when he received the Henri Schubert Memorial Award in 2007.
Peter has been recognised by the Australian National Honours system through the Australian Sports Medal in 2000 for which he was acknowledged for his outstanding service as an athlete, coach and administrator for 30 years, especially in country areas and then the Medal of the Order of Australia in 2011 for his contribution to athletics.