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AOC Annual General Meeting - Orders of Merit to Australian Sporting Greats

28 April 2018

AOC: The Australian Olympic Committee has awarded a posthumous Order of Merit to the late Peter Norman whose Australian record for the 200 metre sprint still stands 50 years after he set the mark.

An Order of Merit is awarded a person who in the opinion of the Executive has achieved remarkable merit in the sporting world, either through personal achievement or contribution to the development of sport.

Peter Norman famously set the new record (20.06 seconds) at the Mexico Olympics in 1968 where he won the silver medal for the event.

However, it was Peter’s decision to stand in solidarity with American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos during their silent civil rights protest on the medal dais, that further etched him into Australian Olympic folklore.

In awarding a posthumous Order of Merit, AOC President John Coates noted that Peter Norman’s remarkable achievements as an athlete were inevitably dwarfed by his support for the gold and bronze medallists who raised their gloved fists and bowed their heads during the United States National anthem.

“This is an overdue award there is no doubt. The respect for Peter and his actions is still enormous to this day. He believed in human rights throughout his life. We lost Peter in 2006 but we should never lose sight of his brave stand that day and further as a five-time national champion, his Australian 200 metres record set in Mexico has never been matched. His athletic achievement should never be underestimated”.

Mr Coates also awarded Orders of Merit to four legendary Olympic medallists with their own unique standing in the Australian Olympic story.

“Raelene Boyle, Catherine Freeman, Shane Gould and Ian Thorpe. What wonderful ambassadors for Australia and Australian sport. Each has made a contribution for which they can be proud and for which Australians are very grateful”.

Three times Olympic silver medallist Raelene Boyle was undoubtedly the fastest drug-free sprinter of her era. Raelene’s was relegated to second place over both the 100 and 200 metres events in the 1972 Munich Games by an East German rival whose career was subsequently tainted by drug allegations.

She later carried the flag in the opening ceremony at the 1976 Montreal Games.
In acknowledging her award, Raelene had this message from Africa where she is currently on holidays.

“I am disappointed I cannot be with you to celebrate this special occasion. It makes me feel very warm inside to think that my Olympic life is still being recognised. “

At just 15 years of age, Shane Gould became the first and only Australian to win three individual gold medals at the one Games, and remarkably, each of them in world record time.

Incredibly, she had held every freestyle world record from the 100 metres to 1500 metres with the 200 metre freestyle medley thrown in for good measure. She retired from swimming aged 17.

““It is a surprise and delight to be recognised by the Australian Olympic Committee with an Order of Olympic Merit in 2018 for my personal achievement in Olympic swimming and my contribution to the development of swimming at many levels in varied countries.

“The athletes awarded today know better than most, the burden of being an Olympic sports champion as well as the deeply satisfying personal sense of accomplishment, it is a yin yang position to be in!”

Catherine Freeman proudly lit the flame at the Opening Ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, eleven nights later she went to win the 400 metres final before a crowd of 112,000 people and a television audience of 9 million Australians.

Cathy Freeman has described the Order as “a very special honour.”

“Even though my sporting career ended 15 years ago, my life continues on as an Australian Olympian and it all still gives me such great pride. I humbly extend my gratitude to the Australian Olympic Committee for the Order of Merit award.”

Ian Thorpe was also awarded an Order of Merit on Friday April 27th at an AOC function as he was not available for Saturday’s Annual General Meeting.

Ian has won five Olympic gold medals, the greatest total of any Australian.

That simple statement reflects the magnitude of his athletic achievement, principally as a 400-metre freestyle swimmer but also over shorter distances and in relay teams.

His tally of three gold medals and two silver in the Sydney 2000 Olympics marked him as Australia’s most successful athlete at Australia’s most successful games.

Ian commented “It’s a tremendous honour for me to receive this acknowledgement from the Australia Olympic Committee alongside some of Australia’s greatest ever athletes.

A further three Orders of Merit were also awarded to Geoff Lipshut, founding Chief Executive Officer of the Olympic Winter Institute of Australia (OWIA). Geoff has provided both the guidance and incisive thinking to transform Australia’s standing as an Olympic force at Winter Games.

Angus Douglas and Paul Bachelor were recognised for their contributions to the Australian Olympic Foundation’s Investment Advisory Committee.

Their advice over many years has ensured the continued financial strength of the AOC through often challenging times in order that our athletes are given the best opportunity to shine on the world stage.

“Great contributions to the world of sport can be reflected in wonderful work so often undertaken away from the field of play and the theatre of competition. Such is the case with Geoff, Angus and Paul and we are grateful for their guidance.” Mr Coates said.

Also at today’s Annual General Meeting, Catherine Fettell, President of Shooting Australia, was elected to fill a casual vacancy on the Executive following the departure of Nicole Livingstone OAM who resigned on 16 November 2017. Catherine was the only nomination.

Finally, the Constitution of the AOC was amended to permit the Executive to award Life Memberships of the AOC to individuals who have served on the AOC Executive for a minimum 13 years – a change from the previous minimum of 20 years.


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