Neale Lavis OAM | Athlete Member (Equestrian) | The Sport Australia Hall of Fame
11.06.1930 – 7.10.2019
The Sport Australia Hall of Fame (SAHOF) is mourning the passing of our esteemed Member Neale Lavis OAM.
Inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1989, Neale Lavis was one of our countries greatest ever equestrians and in 1999 was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for his service to the equestrian sports as a competitor, coach, administrator and to the community.
Lavis was best known as one of the four-man Australian equestrian team that made history by winning gold in the three-day team event at the 1960 Rome Olympic Games, giving Australia a new kind of Olympic glory.
In a remarkable story, three of the team including Lavis came from the outback.
They came from farms to do combat with cavalry officers and fox hunters, people who had learnt their skills in formal riding schools rather than in lonely paddocks, and they brought with them horses that had been bred in the bush. They sailed with them for nearly six weeks to London in a cargo ship, flew with them to Rome, and for 20 days before and during the Games, they journeyed 142km a day to ride them. Between the three of them, those riders won two gold medals and a silver, the first Australia had achieved in equestrian events.
Lavis, 30 at the time, was the youngest of the Rome Olympic team. Riding ‘Mirrabooka’, named (in Aboriginal form) for the Southern Cross, he was almost faultless over the three days of competition. He bought the horse in Cooma for £100 and after the Olympics was offered £10,000 for him. Lavis replied, “No way, I’d never sell him”.
Sport Australia Hall of Fame Chair John Bertrand AO said “Neale displayed the true pioneering spirit of our great Australian sportsmen and women. The story of the journey to the Games in 1960 is the stuff of folklore and something that must be remembered and celebrated. We honour a great horseman whose contribution to his sport of equestrian was stellar”.
Our deepest condolences to Neale’s family.