The latest from STOKE HILL PRESS ...
RALPH DOUBELL is one of just three Australian men — after Edwin Flack (1896) and Herb Elliott (1960) — to have won Olympic Gold on the athletics track.
Doubell’s victory in the 800 metres at Mexico City on October 15, 1968 — 50 years ago — remains one of the most stunning wins in Australian sporting history. Those two stats — ‘just three men’ and ‘50 years ago’ — are quite remarkable. Sir Roger Bannister, the first man to break the four-minute mile, called Doubell’s performance ‘the finest tactical run I have ever seen’. Doubell’s world record time would have won five of the next ten Olympic 800s, including the Sydney 2000, Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 Games.
How did Doubell do it? Why isn’t he a household name? And what became of him?
In this new biography, released on the 50th anniversary of Doubell’s epic achievement, author Michael Sharp, discovers that Doubell was not an accomplished schoolboy runner, but going to the Melbourne Olympics was an inspiration and while studying at the University of Melbourne Doubell joined Franz Stampfl’s athletics squad.
Stampfl was a world-renowned athletics coach who had mentored Bannister before emigrating to Australia. ‘Do not worry, it is only pain,’ he told his athletes on the toughest of training days. Sharp identifies Doubell’s key asset, a powerful inner drive, and relates how Stampfl helped strengthen his new protégé’s mind and body so that on the biggest day of his sporting life he was invincible. The film of Doubell’s triumph, which is available on YouTube, is wonderfully impressive. The book is essential reading for aspiring track athletes, for anyone seeking the elusive ‘winning edge’ that set Doubell apart, and for all with fond memories of a golden era of Australian sport.
The world was in turmoil at the time of the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, with issues such as apartheid in South Africa, race relations in America, student protests in Mexico and the Soviet Union’s invasion of Czechoslovakia all impacting on the Games. Furthermore, the infrastructure in the host city was not all state of the art. Doubell remembers cleaning his teeth with Coke or beer, because of fears the tap water was contaminated. He won gold 24 hours before his teammate, silver medallist Peter Norman, was involved in the ‘Black Power’ protest by American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos during the 200-metres medal presentation.
Afterwards, Doubell became a more celebrated track star in America than at home, graduated from Harvard Business School and worked as an investment banker in New York and London. His winning time from Mexico City remained the Australian record until July 20, 2018, when it was finally beaten by Joseph Deng.
Deng, a 20-year-old refugee from South Sudan who came to Australia with his family when he was six, has had an amazing life — it’s extraordinary how his story and Ralph Doubell’s are now connected.
About the Author ...
MICHAEL SHARP PRACTISED AS A LAWYER before becoming a journalist with The Sydney Morning Herald. He then began a career in corporate communication and has advised several leading Australian companies and organisations. He is an avid sports fan who has run many fun runs and half-marathons, and a dozen marathons. This is his first book.