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PROTRACK » GENERAL » Aussie OG 100m Bronze Medallist Hec Hogan remembered.

Aussie OG 100m Bronze Medallist Hec Hogan remembered.

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http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/sprinter-hector-hec-hogan-the-hero-we-nearly-forgot/story-e6freoof-1225912998411

Sprinter Hector 'Hec' Hogan the hero we nearly forgot
The Courier-Mail
September 02, 2010



REMEMBERED: Maureen Berkeley, the widow of Olympic sprint legend Hec Hogan, with a trophy presented to Hogan in 1958 at an Australia Day athletics meeting for winning the men's 100 yards.
Picture: Jono Searle Source: The Courier-Mail


IT WAS 50 years ago to the day. Queenslander Hector "Hec" Hogan and his wife Maureen were in Brisbane Hospital listening to the live radio broadcast of the final of the 100m sprint at the Rome Olympics. The gun went off and just over 10 seconds later, as the runners passed the finish line, Hec Hogan died.

"It was the race he should have been in," Maureen, now Mrs Berkeley, said yesterday.

"I can't remember who rang us from Rome, it might have been Herb Elliott. He told us to listen and when the race finished Hec was gone."

Hogan, born in Rockhampton 29 years earlier, was Australia's greatest sprinter.

Seven times Australian 100 yards champion, just four and a half years before his tragic death from leukaemia he equalled the world record for the 100 yards on a grass track in Sydney.

That same year he had finished third in the 100 yards at the Commonwealth Games in Vancouver and at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne he took the bronze medal in the 100m behind Americans Bobby Morrow and Thane Baker. He remains the last Australian to win a medal in the Olympics' blue riband event.

Video footage of that race shows Hogan in lane six getting off to a good start, falling back in the middle of the race and fighting back to be just pipped by Baker for second on the line. On the dais he gives an almost shy wave to the ecstatic home crowd as he accepts his medal.

Later he got up from a packed press conference and walked over to greet his wife, who had just entered the room. It would never be that good again.

It was less than two years after his dazzling performance in Melbourne that Hogan began to feel unwell. Short on energy and unable to produce the lightning-fast jump from the blocks for which he was renowned, he continued to compete, even bringing home another bronze medal as part of Australia's 4x100m relay at the 1958 Commonwealth Games in Cardiff. Even so, he knew something was desperately wrong but no one could tell him what it was.

"It was finally a doctor in Townsville who diagnosed leukaemia and gave him six months," Maureen said. "By that time it was so far gone. We would have gone anywhere in the world, but there was no one who could help him. It was a very difficult time. We had no money, unlike athletes today. My mother made the running shorts he ran in at the Olympics out of bridal satin."

Olympic historian Harry Gordon, who got to know Hogan well through covering track and field as a young reporter, described him as "the quintessential Queenslander".

"He was very laconic, very laid-back, but once he got down on the blocks to compete he just exploded. That was his trademark, this astonishing jump when the gun went off. The way he could synchronise his start with the gun was amazing; his instincts were superb."

An old boy of Marist Brothers College Rosalie, Hogan was also a handy rugby player and world-class long jumper.

"The first time he asked me out he said, 'Would you like to see me run?'," Maureen recalled. "I knew nothing about athletics but we went out to St Lucia for the Queensland or Australian titles. Well, he won the 100, the 220, the hop, step and jump and the relay. The next day the name Hogan was splashed over the papers. I remember thinking, 'Oooh'."

Hogan's son Mark, now in the building trade on the NSW south coast, was just four years old when his father died and has no memories of him.

"My mother has told me a lot about him and she's given me all his old scrapbooks and press clippings," he said.

"I've spoken to a lot of people who saw him compete or ran against him. They all tell me he was an exceptional sprinter who would compare well with the runners today.

"Mum has given me all his old medals and trophies and I've got his spikes and starting blocks which I'll pass on to my kids one day. The only thing Mum has kept is his racing singlet. She'll never part with that."

In an era when athletes have agents and endorsement deals, and their form at nightclubs receives as much interest as anything they do on the track or in the pool, knockabout family man and refrigeration mechanic Hec Hogan has been largely forgotten. But according to three-time Olympian Rick Mitchell, who has researched Hogan's life for a proposed biography, he should be remembered as one of Australia's all-time greats.

"I've always felt he is a forgotten hero," he said. "He won national titles, Commonwealth medals and equalled a world record. On those results alone you have to rate him very, very highly, but at the end of the day one thing stands out: he got on the Olympic podium in the 100m and no other Australian has been able to do that since."

In 1954 Hogan competed in the Australian national championships in the 100 yards, 220 yards and long jump – and won the lot. In the same race that he equalled the world record of 9.2 seconds for 100 yards he also equalled the world mark of 10.2 seconds for the 100m but because a woman was running, it was not officially recognised. His record of seven national sprint titles has never been broken.

The words on the headstone above his grave in Nudgee cemetery say it all: "Hector Hogan – Athlete".


The medal winners in the 100m at the 1956 Olympics,
from left, Hec Hogan (3rd), Bob Morrow of the United States
1st) and Thane Baker of the United States (2nd).
Source: The Courier-Mail

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