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Wardlaw honoured as AA Life Governor as five more Life Members announced

Published Fri 21 Oct 2022

Two-time Olympian and distance great Chris Wardlaw PSM has been honoured by Athletics Australia with Life Governorship, and five new Life Members have been added to the organisation’s growing list following the 2022 Annual General Meeting.

Wardlaw, a former AA Board Member, joins a select group of only 48 other Life Governors – an honour bestowed upon individuals who have displayed outstanding service to Athletics Australia and the sport in this country.

Other Australian athletics community members recognised as Life Members include Olympic sprinter Denise Boyd (nee Robertson), Commonwealth Games silver medallist Terri Anne Cater OAM (nee Wangman), Australian official Kim Owens, former Australian hammer thrower and coach Agostino Puopolo OAM and two-time Olympian and former AA Chair of Selectors, Dion Russell.

Their diverse stories about their contribution to the Australian Athletics Community can be read below.

Citations written by Brian Roe for Athletics Australia
Posted: 21/10/2022

Life Governor
Christopher Wardlaw PSM

A dual Olympian as a distance runner from 5000 metres to the marathon, Chris has contributed to athletics in Australia in an enduring manner and in diverse ways. Of particular note early on was his instrumental role in the fight for Australian athletes to compete at the 1980 Olympic Games. His athletic and political involvement in these Games enabled Australia to continue its record of having competed at every summer Olympics.

As an athlete Rab, as he is best known, represented Australia at the 1976 Montreal Olympics - in the marathon and 10000m in which he was a finalist and again in the marathon four years later. He remains passionate about the World Cross Country Championships in which he wore the green and gold four times - 1975, 1977, 1979 and 1981. Rab was also in the Oceania Team at 10000m for the 1979 World Cup.

He was the 1975 Australian 10000m champion and was silver medallist the following year, as well as a Victorian champion at 5000m, 10000m, marathon and cross country and co-leader with Rob de Castella of the famous Melbourne “Running Pack” of their era.

A long-time distance coach in Victoria from the 1980s and 90s, Chris coached athletes of the likes of Pat Scammell, Lisa Dick, Anne Cross, Sarah Jamieson, Kate Anderson, Craig Mottram and, of course, Steve Moneghetti and Kerryn McCann. It is fair to say that their contribution to and longevity in our sport owes much to Chris’ coaching skills and wisdom. He was one of those who ensured that Melbourne was a key centre for international distance training and running during this time.

As well as international and national level athletes, Chris has coached numerous club and state level athletes. Not only has he supported his athletes in their sporting careers, but he has also advised and encouraged them in their personal and career/study endeavours. Developing his coaching skills from Pat Clohessy and his own education and athletic experiences, Chris has also mentored other coaches.

Chris became a significant figure in Australian team management during the 1990s, serving on nine teams from 1993 to 2000, including four in the key role as head coach. In the period leading up to the Sydney Olympics, he took on the full-time role as National Head Coach. Team coaching roles included the 1993 and 1997 World Championships, the 1994 Commonwealth Games and in 1996 a marathon team to Japan and the Atlanta Olympic Games.

His head coach roles covered the 1998 Commonwealth Games, 1999 World Championships, the 2000 Match Team to South Africa and the 2000 Olympic Games. Later he was a team coach for the 2011 World Cross in Spain.

Chris’ capacity to make a hands-on contribution to Australian athletics was reduced only when his professional life took him to Hong Kong from 2002 to 2008. Even then the passion didn’t die and was certainly ignited upon his return.

Having been a driving member, and for a period chair, of the Australian Distance Running Commission from the mid-90s until 2002, Chris resumed with gusto from 2008 to 2012. As part of his head coaching role, Chris had been a national selector from 1998 to 2000 and a member of the AA International Tours Commission from 1998 to 2001.

Chris was consequently elected as a Life Member of Athletics Australia in 2010.

Since then, Rab has remained close to the sport – even more so from 2014 when first he took on the role of independent chair of Glasgow Review examining the sport’s high-performance program and culture, before accepting an appointment to the AA Board of Directors in February 2016 before being elected to a more permanent role later that year.

He was an inquisitive and probing board member until his retirement in 2022. Chris’s time on the board was also noteworthy for his innovative thought. His forensic skills were to the fore as a member of the Board’s Audit and Risk Committee from 2016 to 2019, whilst his intimate knowledge of athletics prepared him for a time as a member and chair of its High-Performance Advisory Committee. 

Chris’ deep knowledge and experience at all levels of athletics allowed him to make measured and well thought out contributions to the board - always with the sport and the athlete foremost in his mind.  His contribution was immeasurable. He continues his involvement as a member of the Local Organising Committee Board of Directors for the 2023 World Cross Country Championships in Bathurst and as chair of its Legacy Committee.

Chris was honoured for his service to athletics with the Australian Sports Medal in 2000 after becoming the VicSport Coach of the Year in 1999. Professionally, he was bestowed with the Public Service Medal in 2013 for outstanding public service to education, particularly in leading major change programs in the education system in Victoria - and as a Fellow of Monash University a year later.

Chris Wardlaw’s involvement in athletics in so many capacities has already spanned more than four decades and his service mounted a compelling case for his elevation to Life Governor of Athletics Australia on 21 October 2022.

Life Members
Kim Owens

Among Australia’s talented crew of international level officials, Kim Owens is one of the quiet achievers. Following her mother, Athletics Australia Life Member, Rosemary, into the ranks of Athletics New South Wales officials and administrators, Kim has progressively and effectively made a substantial mark in both capacities.

Kim is passionate about improving the lot of technical officials, providing pathways and mentoring for newcomers as well as improving her own skills.

She passed the evaluation for the World Athletics Level II Diploma in Officiating and consequently was appointed to the Oceania Area International Technical Officials from 2014 to 2017 and for a second term from 2018. Upon the introduction of the new worldwide technical officials’ scheme in 2022, Kim was included in the initial cohort of World Athletics Silver Referees. She has also been invited to undertake training to be considered as a World Para Athletics International Technical Official.

Prior to her initial inclusion on the Area Panel, Kim had already displayed a strong commitment to Oceania competitions having been appointed as a meeting manager for the Pacific Games in Samoa in 2007, the SP Mini Games in the Cook Islands in 2009 and the OA Regional Championships in 2009 and a jumps judge for the full championships held in 2010.

Later came further senior roles including as meeting manager for the 2016 Polynesian Championships in Tahiti. At further Oceania Championships Kim was an ATO in Cairns in 2015, meeting manager in Fiji in 2017 and competition director in Mackay in 2022.

Her first foray into global level competitions came in 1996 when she put up her hand to be a member of the Administrative Services Project Committee, when Athletics Australia hosted the World Under 20 Championships in Sydney. She has since served on numerous local organising committees for major national and New South Wales competitions.

Having broadened her on-field officiating skills in the interim, Kim was appointed in 2000 as a call room judge for the Sydney Olympics and as both a field judge and track umpire for the Paralympics.

When Australia hosted its two most recent editions of the Commonwealth Games, Kim was a track umpire in Melbourne in 2006 and a meeting manager on the Gold Coast in 2018. 
At national level in more recent times, Kim has accepted the crucial role of competition director – including for the 2022 Nationals where in difficult weather conditions and with a much smaller than usual number of national technical officials she led the team in an excellent presentation of the event, capping to date a more than 20-year commitment to major state and national events.
Her contribution at all levels from clubland up was acknowledged with the Athletics Australia Gold Pin for 30 years’ service in 2015.

Kim’s passion for athletics and her professional skills in education have ensured she has been a valuable member of the Athletics NSW Officials Advisory Panel since 2009 and the AA equivalent from 2013. She has been involved in officials’ education, exam supervision and marking, retention and acquisition of officials, appointments, mentoring and competition planning.

In 2012 her off-field skills were recognized through an appointment as a volunteer in Press Operations for both the London Olympics and Paralympics.

Through all her roles in state, national and area environments, always delivered as a volunteer, Kim displays dedication and a commitment to acquiring a high level of expertise for the benefit of others and the sport. She was well placed to be elected as a Life Member of Athletics Australia on 21 October 1922. 

Terri Anne Cater (nee Wangman) OAM

At 17, Terri Anne Wangman was selected for the 1974 Commonwealth Games for the 4x400m relay – and in collaboration with Judy Peckham, Charlene Rendina and Margaret Ramsay came home to Australia with the silver medal.

Two years later, despite missing the National Championships through injury, she was the surprise selection in the Australian Team for the Montreal Olympics – picked for both women’s relay events. With Australia’s stocks high and the teams eventually making both finals, she was however, not called upon to run.

It was another five years before Terri again donned a national vest, but it was with success taking gold in the 4x400m relay and silver in the 800 metres at the Pacific Conference Games in Christchurch, New Zealand – the same city in which she had enjoyed her initial success.

She made a second Commonwealth Games Team at home in Brisbane in 1982 finishing fourth in 2.01.91 – just .21 seconds off a bronze medal. There were also two appearances for Oceania at the 1979 and 1981 World Cups.

At both State and National level, Terri enjoyed championship success from 100 to 800 metres. After two golds and a silver at Junior Nationals in 1974, she had to wait until 1979 for her first senior podium result – a bronze at 400 metres. Things got much better between then until 1984 collecting three national titles (one at 400 and two at 800 metres) along with three silvers and another bronze.

In Victorian Championships she was state champion on four occasions – at 400m (1981) and at 800m (1980, 81 and 82). There were five silvers and seven bronze medals covering all four distances.  At the close of her track career, Terri’s personal bests were 52.50 for 400 metres, 2.00.56 for 800 metres and 4.41.9 for the mile. 

Terri turned to coaching – particularly at club and pathway junior level – her own experience as an athlete being especially imparted to, and lapped up by, emerging talent.

As a result, she was called upon on five occasions to take on national under 18 and under 20 team coaching duties from 2008 to 2016 - to the World U18 Championships (in Italy in 2009) and four times to the World Under 20s (Poland 2008 and 2016, Canada 2010 and Spain 2012).
Terri was a club coach at Box Hill Women’s AC – a squad of around 15 women and girls (many state and national finalists) predominantly sprints and middle distance, but happy to help anyone who sought out her services, celebrating every personal best. The best performed included Italian representative Danielle Perpoli and Kerri Jorgensen. She was equally enthusiastic for every member of her squad and always celebrated each new PB set by every member.

In clubland, Terri was a volunteer coach, travelling into Olympic Park in the summer months from her home in the distant south-eastern suburbs three times per week and in winter to Black Rock or The Tan. She was always an enthusiastic mentor at every weekend Interclub at Doncaster or Box Hill and on Thursday nights for State League at Olympic Park.

Terri is also very heavily involved in school coaching – head girls coach at Caulfield Grammar from 1988 to 2015, winning many APS premierships, and of both the girls and boys cross country squads from 2004 to 2015. She continues to coach, now based at Glenhuntly and holds a Level 4 coaching accreditation.

A dedicated member of the Athletics International Committee, since its re-vitalisation, Terri served three years as secretary and more recently as its awards co-ordinator and a member of the AI Trust.  She was also part of the AI/AA athlete mentoring program from 2007 and secretary of the Australian Track and Field Coaches Association’s Victorian branch for 15 years.

Terri’s congeniality fostered a love of the sport within her squads and bought out the best in each member. She has a close group of friends within athletics, who affectionally call themselves “The Tarts on Tour” when travelling around to meets.

Her service to athletics was recognised in the Queen’s Birthday List in 2018 when she was honoured with the Medal of the Order of Australia and as a life member of Oakleigh AC.

Terri Cater’s elite personal career and her commitment to grassroots and talent pathway coaching combined with willingness to assist in key administrative roles within the sport provided a strong case for her to be recognised with life membership of Athletics Australia on 21 October 2022.

Agostino Puopolo OAM

Agostino Puopolo, better known to all as Gus, despite managing a substantial business, is one of those special folk who live, breathe and grow athletics.

Gus is passionate about his sport every day of every week – value adding to the experience in athletics of athletes, coaches, officials and administrators alike.

The athlete Gus’s interest in the sport was kindled by a chance meeting with one of his teachers, Jim Davis – also a throws coach at St Stephen’s Harriers who held a hammer training session at the school using a sand-filled volleyball on a piece of rope. 

Gus’s initial foray into competitive athletics was in the 1963-64 season when he joined St Stephen’s Harriers. His favourite event was the hammer throw and he was the under 19 bronze medallist in the 1964 and 1965 Victorian Championships.

Gus began an apprenticeship with the State Electricity Commission in 1966 and while he continued competing in athletics, he could not then devote sufficient time to realise his ambitions of becoming a state and national champion. On the advice of famed coach, Henri Schubert, Gus journeyed to Bayer-Leverkusen Club in Germany in 1971 to advance his athletic career. He returned to Australia in time for the 1973-74 season.

Between 1974 and 1983 – a rare period in his fifty years in the sport when it was a little more about himself, Gus was national hammer champion on seven occasions, also twice taking the silver and bronze medals – and in more recent times has relished the opportunity to present medallions to the latest recipients. There were also seven consecutive Victorian state golds from 1974 before retiring from active competition in 1984 with a final state bronze and a lifetime personal best of 65.16 metres.

His dedication to training and competition earned him national or area selection in major teams on four occasions – for the 1978 and 1982 Commonwealth Games, the 1981 World Cup and earlier that year at the Pacific Conference Games, at which he was the bronze medallist.

Gus’s elite athletics career ended after the Commonwealth Games in Brisbane in 1982 but his involvement in the sport was far from over. While still actively competing for SSH, Gus was approached by several athletes asking for guidance and he had already begun an alternate career as a coach whilst still an athlete. 

His contribution as a coach has been substantial – at the elite-end aptly demonstrated by the 17 athletes who under his guidance have represented Australia in major international meets. The best known amongst these include Phil Spivey, Werner Reiterer, Cecilia McIntosh, Benn Harradine, Dale Stevenson, Kimberly Mulhall and para-athletes John Eden, Todd Hodgetts and Ella Hose.

They and many others have enjoyed national and state championship success –  aspects of the sport which Gus has always regarded as being of the utmost importance and a prime focus for his athletes from under 14 to masters.

Gus has been a valued member of major international Australian Teams as an official on three occasions – the 2001 East Asian Games and twice at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne (2006) and New Delhi (2010). 

Gus has been registered as an athlete or coach for over 50 years. He is a Level 5 coach and an accredited official. He has offered expertise on various Athletics Victoria sub-committees regarding throwing cages and circles. He initiated and organised the AV Throwers Group. He is a Life Member of both St Stephen’s and the Ringwood Athletic Club. He was on the committee of Athletics Nunawading from 1988 to 1990 and was the President of Ringwood from 1996 to 2018. 

He received the sport’s Henri Schubert Memorial Award in 2012 – awarded to an accredited coach who has rendered distinguished service to Australian athletics in different ways, but particularly in the field of coach education, followed by the Medal of the Order of Australia Medal for services as an administrator and coach in 2013 and the Deakin Community Award in 2015. 

Gus Puopolo has an extensive list of achievements as an athlete, coach and club administrator and commands much respect from his peers - befitting his election as a Life Member of Athletics Australia on 21 October 2022. 

Denise Boyd (nee Robertson)

Born in Brisbane and a schoolgirl star at Camp Hill High, Denise Robertson first came to notice representing Queensland at the 1970 Junior Nationals – winning medals in all three sprints, including gold in the 200 metres. It was a time when Australian women’s sprinting was again strong and to make national finals and then teams was no easy order.

By the time she retired after the inaugural World Championships in Helsinki in 1983, Denise had represented her country or continental area at major games and championships on ten occasions whilst domestically garnering 15 national medals.

Over three Commonwealth Games, Denise stood on the victory dais eight times, including twice on the top step – the 200 metres in Edmonton in 1978 after being a member of the winning 4x100m relay team four years earlier. In 1974 there was also silver in the 200m and bronze at 100m – whilst in 1978 she medalled in all four events with a silver in the 4x400 relay and third placings in the 100m and short relay.

In the familiar surroundings of Brisbane in 1982 there was another silver in the 4x400m and two near misses - with fourth placings in the 200m and 4x100m.

Denise was in the green and gold at two Olympic Games – in Montreal in 1976 and then four years later at the controversial Moscow edition where she jointly carried the Olympic flag at the head of the Australian team in the opening ceremony with swimmer Max Metzker.  On both occasions she made the final of the 200 metres, clearly her best event - in both instances placing seventh.

Denise was a commanding figure at the Pacific Conference Games in 1973 and 1977 winning six gold medals and a bronze. Those were both busy years – making the final of both the 100 and 200 metres at the 1973 World University Games and representing Oceania in the 1977 World Cup. 

When as Denise Boyd she hung up her spikes to start her family, her personal bests were 11.35 (100m), 22.35 (200m) and 51.48 (400m). That 200 metres time was the national record for 14 years from 1980 - until bettered by Melinda Gainsford. Denise remained number three on the Australian All-time List for the event 42 years later in 2022.

Denise and fellow Commonwealth gold-medallist husband Ray raised three children Alana, Jacinta and Matt – and extraordinarily, each of them represented Australia in athletics with Alana also joining her parents as a Commonwealth champion and like her mother, twice.  

These days, Denise hardly spends a day without some involvement in her sport, primarily as a coach in club and pathway environments – but also guiding athletes to the next step including Russel Taib who represented Malaysia at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games. She is well-qualified as a Level 3 coach in sprints, hurdles and relays with Maroochy AC.

Earlier, before returning home to Queensland, Denise was involved in coaching girls’ athletics at Caulfield Grammar and at the regular little athletics camps in Benalla.

She has always been a constant attendee and medal presenter at all schools, junior and open Nationals. Her commitment to the sport is recognised by Queensland Athletics naming an annual “Shield” meet in her honour and as the recipient for Athletics Australia’s Edwin Flack Award in 1986. 

She was a board member of the Oceania Regional Development Centre when it was Brisbane-based and with Ray was a driving force behind the establishment of their local track and training facilities at Sippy Downs within the grounds of the University of the Sunshine Coast. She also served on the QA track and field committee, continuing to rarely miss a meet of any level of significance. 

Denise is a caring individual – displayed amply when regularly travelling from the Sunshine Coast to Melbourne to assist in the care of her long-time coach and Athletics Australia life member, Neville Sillitoe in his closing years. She is now one of those ensuring that a generous bequest made by Neville through his estate, will be spent as he wished in nurturing the careers of the next generation.

She was inducted as one of the initial members of the Q Sport Hall of Fame in 2009 and provides mentorship to many other coaches.

Denise Boyd was a champion athlete at state, national and world level – who readily transferred that resilience, skill and determination into coaching with the unique perspective of having already done it all herself. So many have been a beneficiary.  Life Membership of Athletics Australia is a fitting acknowledgement and was bestowed on 21 October 2022.

Dion Russell 

Dion Russell’s career as an elite athlete was extensive – stretching from the first of his two appearances at the World Under 20 Championships in Seoul in 1992 until his challenging program at the 2000 Sydney Olympics when he took on both the 20km and 50km race walks.

His leadership skills were evident early when appointed a team captain of the 1994 World Under 20 Team in Lisbon, where he finished eighth in the 10000m race walk. Dion made the first of three appearances in the green and gold at the World Race Walking Cup in 1995 over 20km, followed in 1997 at 20km and then in 1999 at 50km.

Dion also represented at the World University Games in 1995, the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, the 1998 Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games and two World Championships – in 1997 and 1999.

At national championship level, Dion was prolific – starting out as a seven-time national junior champion on the track and road between 1991 and 1995. At senior level, at a time when Australia’s stocks were high, he was national champion on five occasions – three times at 50km and once each at 20km and 30km. There were also five silver and three bronze medals across both track and road.

Dion’s early competition career was in his home state of Victoria. He was a prolific medallist in younger age groups and at senior level was state race walking champion three times at 5000 metres and twice at 10000m.

As at his retirement, Dion’s race walking personal bests were 19.36,84 for 5000m, 41.50.70 for 10000m, 1:20.49 for 20km; 2:10.02 for 30km and 3:47.34 for 50km. 

But as early as 1997, there were signs that Dion might have another string to his bow – in administration - becoming a member of the Athletics Australia Athletes Commission and a year later its Race-Walking Commission, serving through until after the Sydney Olympics.

In 2001 he agreed to serve in the sometimes-challenging task as a member of the AA Anti-Doping Commission, remaining in the role for nine years.

But Dion’s most significant contribution to athletics away from the competition arena began in 2004 when he was appointed to the National Selection Committee. He became chair in 2010, serving until his term expired in 2021. 

Dion was a very active chair of selectors, attending most relevant track and field and out of stadia events throughout his period in the chair to observe athletes and be available for discussion with coaches and members of the community.  Dion’s thorough analysis of athlete performance encompassed both the able- body and para cohorts of junior and senior teams - ensuring consistent selection and strong teams through these years.

He diligently engaged in the development of selection criteria and professionally managed the often-complex areas of athlete requests for re-consideration and for appeals. In addition, for the selection of teams, such as the Paralympic Games, and more recently the Commonwealth Games, when an overall team quota limited the number of selected athletes, requiring comparison not only within the same sex and event but across events and encompassing both sexes.

Additionally, Dion stepped into other roles within the high-performance department during this time including acting as a National Athlete Support Structure (NASS) selector during the period when there was not an appointed High Performance Director.

Dion has provided wise advice to both Athletics Australia and ACT Athletics through his professional roles at Sport Australia – which has been appreciated by the recipients.

Dion Russell’s career as an elite athlete combined with 20 years of dedicated service to the sport in a range of administrative roles provided a strong basis for him to be recognised with Life Membership of Athletics Australia on 21 October 2022.