1928 – 2012
When the Olympic Games were last held in London in 1948 it was a Games of austerity within a city still rebuilding after the Second World War. Yet for 20-year-old Sydney University engingeering student John Treloar, it was the experience of a lifetime.
Treloar, who passed away yesterday at the age of 84, was a world class sprinter in a trailblazing era of Australian athletics. Recognised as one of the fastest men in the world, he qualified for the final of the men’s 100m at the Olympic Games in 1952 in Helsinki. In the one of the closest finals ever, Treloar was sixth, only a tenth of a second behind the winner.
Between ’52 and his Olympic debut in ’48 Treloar was a triple gold medal winner at the 1950 Empire Games, winning the 100y, 220y and 4x110y relay. Yet it was the experiences of London which Treloar held dearest.
Prior to the Games, crossing the Atlantic on the Queen Mary after a period of training in the USA, Treloar had a chance encounter with Sir Frank Beaurepaire, the former Olympic swimming medallist, politician and businessman.
“Up to that time I had my meals in the Z-class dinning room, way down in the bowels of the ship,” Treloar recalled to the Australian Olympic Committee earlier this year.
“After that I was in the first class dining room. It was marvellous.”
The dining wasn’t as delicious when he arrived in London, with quality food still at a shortage. Earlier this year Treloar told the Sydney Morning Herald that even four years after the War had ended that it was clear that ‘the place had taken a terrible battering.’
"We were told there was a giant crate of juicy Aussie steaks on its way, but they 'went missing' at Tilbury Docks,” Treloar told the SMH. “I seem to remember it was kippered herrings for breakfast, lunch and dinner."
Yet looking back, it wasn’t the quality of the cuisine but the esprit d’corp within the team that was particularly memorable, along with the impact that London’s weather had on the Games.
“It was a great Olympics. We ran at Wembley Stadium and I think it rained every day. It was a clay track that we ran on and it was like running on a mud heap; It was very slow,” he said.
“I’ll never forget those Games. They were the start of a wonderful athletics career for me.”
Aside from his athletic achievements on the track Treloar also contributed to the sport as an administrator, becoming President of the NSW Amateur Athletics Association (now Athletics NSW). He was a Life Member of the organisation and was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 2001 for ‘service to athletics as a competitor and administrator, and to the Olympic movement’, having received the Australian Sports Medal the year prior.
Such is the esteem that Treloar was held in that a joint media release recognising his life was issued by the Prime Minister and Sports Minister today. Separately, AOC President John Coates said Treloar was ‘a wonderful athlete, but an even greater man.’
In a statement to the AOC John Treloar Jr said of his father: 'Dad passed away exactly as he ran. Quickly.'