Ron Clarke was Inducted into The Sport Australia Hall of Fame as part of the inaugural group in 1985 for his contribution to the sport of Athletics.
He enjoyed one of the most illustrious careers in world long distance running, and etched his achievements on the psyche of both Australian and international sporting circles.
In nearly a decade spent on the international circuit, Clarke broke 18 official world records and, for a period of seven years from 1965 to 1972, held every world record from the two miles to the one hour run. No athlete in history has ever matched this feat. Clarke also improved marks for the main two distances – the 5000m and 10,000m – by greater margins than had ever been achieved before.
Clarke broke the world junior mile and two mile records in 1955, and was chosen to carry the Olympic torch around the MCG to open the Melbourne Olympics in 1956.
Born in Melbourne, educated at Melbourne High School, and with his brother Jack playing for Essendon in the Victorian Football League, Clarke’s was a story with many local connections. The image created of his lighting the flame is one of the eternal memories of sporting history.
During the Australian Mile National Championships in 1956, Clarke tripped over in an incident involving fellow Australian, John Landy, and thereby created one of the most unforgettable moments of Australia’s sporting history. Landy considered himself at fault, so stopped to check Clarke’s condition and apologise, before chasing the field to win the race.
After initially retiring in 1959, Ron Clarke returned to competition in 1962. He broke his first world record mark in Melbourne on December 18, 1963, breaking the six mile and 10,000m marks in one race. In 1965, over a period of two months, Clarke broke 11 world records in 16 races.
Clarke competed in two Olympics – Tokyo in 1964 and Mexico City in 1968. At Tokyo, he came ninth in the 5000m, won bronze in the 10,000m and finished eighth in the marathon. Four years later, in the rarefield atmosphere of Mexico City, he ran courageously to finish sixth in the 10,000m and fifth in the 5,000m.
He also competed in three Commonwealth Games – Perth in 1962, Kingston in 1966 and Edinburgh in 1970, winning a total of four silver medals.
In 1965, Clarke received a host of honours in recognition of his achievements. He was voted BBC International Sportsman of the year, World Sportsman of the year by the International Association of Sports Writers, Australian of the Year, and Athlete of the Year by the prestigious Track and Field News (USA) and World Sports (UK).
The French Academy of Sport selected him as their World Sportsman of the year in 1966, the same year in which he was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for his services to athletics. He also held the position of Mayor of the Gold Coast City Council.
Honours & Awards
Inducted into The Sport Australia Hall of Fame as part of the inaugural group in 1985
Appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for services to sport in 1966
Awarded the Australian Sports Medal for significant contribution as a competitor in 2000
Inducted into Athletics Australia Hall of Fame in 2000
Awarded the Centenary Medal for Distinguished service to the eco-tourism industry in 2001
Appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in 2013