Vale: John Francis Treloar AM – 1928-2012

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One of Sydney University’s favourite sons, the 84 year old dual Olympian John Treloar, took ill at his Sydney home on Monday evening and then passed away in hospital at 10.30pm.

Considered one of the fastest men on the planet in his prime, he was involved in one of the closest 100 yard Olympic finishes ever run, when he contested the final at the Helsinki Games in 1952.

American Lindy Remigino was awarded the gold medal, but he was not the only one to run 10.4 seconds – there were three others – while fifth and sixth came in at 10.5 seconds. Although Treloar officially finished sixth, just 0.1sec separated him from the winner.  The time remained his personal best for the distance. His best over 200 yards was 21.1sec run in 1946.

Born in NSW in 1928, Treloar was educated at North Sydney Boys High School before arriving at Sydney University to study mechanical and electrical engineering.
His academic progress was matched by his sprinting prowess and he soon became a hot prospect for the 1948 London Olympic Games. Indeed, his parents provided a professional coach for him and supported a pre-Olympics training trip to the United States. He rewarded their support with selection in the Australian team, “All my running had been on grass. I needed to practise on cinder tracks,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald.

Arriving in post-war London, Treloar said the 1948 Australian team was shocked by the “terrible battering” the city had taken.

“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.”

He missed out on making the semi-finals of the sprints in London but the experience spurred him to continue his athletics career.

Two years later he was a triple gold medallist at the 1950 British Empire Games in Auckland when he stood atop the podium for the 100 yards and 200 yards events and the 4X110 yards relay.

He went to Helsinki as the fastest white man in the world and became the first Australian to reach an Olympic 100 yard final.

Bookending his efforts on the world athletics stage, Treloar won six Australian championships in 100 and 200 yards events, won a University Blue for his sport and graduated with a degree in mechanical and electrical engineering.

He remained a strong supporter of the university and its sporting clubs and became an enthusiastic golfer in later years, playing at the New South Wales and Leura Golf Clubs.

In 2000, Treloar was awarded the Australian Sports Medal for “outstanding service as an Olympic athlete and since then as an administrator and event organiser”. He was also made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM).

Regarded as one of Australia’s greatest athletes, John Treloar is survived by his wife Jan; his children John (married to Catherine); Philip (married to Karen); Geoffrey (married to Jenny) and Patricia (married to Greg) and his thirteen grandchildren.

John’s funeral will be at his old school, North Sydney Boys’ High School, at 10am on Wednesday 1st August.