- Edwin Flack
Edwin Harold "Teddy" Flack (5 November 1873 – 10 January 1935) was an Australian athlete and
tennisplayer. He was the first and only Australian Olympian in 1896, and the first Olympic champion in the 800 metres and the 1500 metres running events.cite web |url=http://www.casey.vic.gov.au/olympic/ |title=Edwin Flack - Our first Olympic champion|accessdate=2007-09-14 |work= City of Casey]
Born in London, England, Teddy Flack was five years old when his family migrated to Australia, to live in
Berwick, Victoria. Soon after leaving the Melbourne Church of England Grammar School in 1892, where he studied Greek history, Flack became the one mile champion of New South Walesand Victoria. Edwin competed for Old Melburnians Athletics Club, and wore the club singlet when he ran at the Olympics. After graduation Edwin joined his father's accountancyfirm, Davey, Flack & Co. At the age of 21 Flack was sent to London to receive further training as an accountant with the firm Price Waterhouse (now PricewaterhouseCoopers). A keen athlete in Australia, Flack joined the London Athletic club and was intent on attending the coming inaugural Olympics while in Europe.
Athensafter an uncomfortable six day rail and sea trip, during which he was plagued with sea sickness. On the opening day of the Games he won his first race, the first heat of the 800 metres run, finishing in a time of 2:10.0. On the second day he lined up against the American favourite, Arthur Blake, in the 1500 metres run. Running shoulder to shoulder with Blake in the final straight, Flack powered ahead near the end to win by more than five metres. On the fourth day of the Games Flack earned his second first-place medal, winning the 800 metres in 2:11.0.
Just a day later Flack tried for a treble, in the marathon, even though he had never run a race more than 10 miles, less than half the marathon distance. He was in second place behind Frenchman
Albin Lermusiaux, bronze medallist in the 1500 m run, for much of the race. After 32 kilometres, the Frenchman dropped out and Flack was left in the lead. But with just three kilometres to go, Flack suddenly collapsed. He was so delirious that, when a Greek spectator tried to help him, Flack punched him to the ground. Flack was removed from the course and tended to by Prince Nicholas.
Although largely unknown, Flack also competed in the
tennissingles and doubles at the Athens Olympics. He lost in the first round of the singles to Aristidis Akratopoulosof Greece. In the doubles he was paired with an English friend, George S. Robertson. They reached the semi-finals after a walk-over in the first round, but lost their only match to Dionysios Kasdaglisof Egyptand Demetrios Petrokokkinosof Greece. They placed third due to their semi-final appearance, but medals for third places were not yet awarded in 1896.
Flack returned to Australia and the family accounting firm in
Melbournein 1898, and purchased a property near Berwick, Victoria, where he stayed on weekends and bred Friesian cattle. Flack never competed for Australia again, but joined the Australian Olympic Committee(AOC) and was involved as a representative for Australia at the first International Olympic Committee(IOC) Congress.cite web |url=http://www.casey.vic.gov.au/olympic/article.asp?Item=838 |title=25 things you probably didn't know about Edwin Flack|accessdate=2008-09-22 |work= City of Casey] Flack died in 1935 following an operation at a private hospital, and was cremated with his ashes interred at Berwick Cemetery.
Flack is commemorated by a bronze statue on the
median stripof High St, Berwick, which was unveiled in 1998 by former running great and later Governor of Victoria, John Landy. The former Berwick Recreational Reserve was renamed "Edwin Flack Reserve" in 1996 to honour the town's first Olympic hero and medal winner, and includes several sporting grounds including an athletics track, an Australian rules footballoval, netballcourts and soccer pitch. Melbourne Grammar School's sporting complex at Port Melbourne has been named "Edwin Flack Park" in honour of their past student.
Flack was commemorated on a 45 cent Australian postage stamp in the Olympic centenary year of 1996. The AOC named one of streets alongside
Stadium Australiaat Homebush in Sydney, venue of 2000 Summer Olympics, as "Edwin Flack Avenue". Flack has been inducted into the Australian Sports and Athletics Hall of Fame.
* [http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A080540b.htm ADB biography]
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