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PROTRACK » GENERAL » Raelene Boyle recalls early athletic memories & her "Hope Sweeneys"

Raelene Boyle recalls early athletic memories & her "Hope Sweeneys"

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I had a gift of being able to run fast

By Raelene Boyle
The Age
October 24, 2011.

I HAVE an early memory of being about five years old rolling down the hill next to the railway line that sat beside the Royal Park North athletic track in Parkville. It was during a pre-Olympic event featuring our beautiful Betty Cuthbert - little did any of the Boyle clan consider at that time that one day the Olympics would influence two of the three children in their family (my brother Ron was on the 1976 Olympic cycling team).

Mum was from Perth and Dad from Bendigo but Coburg was where they raised their three kids. Even then it was an interesting multicultural suburb, and it was my home right up until age 20. Cars were few and the streets were most often used to play cricket or kick-to-kick with the local kids. We'd run and play hide-and-seek or tear around playing cowboys and Indians.

Thinking about it now reminds me of our relative freedom and accepted safety then. Television was only just being introduced to households and there were no computers. Outside was as much our home as inside the house.

I remember walking to the movies at age 11 with my older brother and joining an athletic club, which was the start of my career in sport.

Coburg football ground, where we trained three times a week, was full of fun and games. My time there was filled with lots of laughter and a little training. North Melbourne Football Club trained there under the watchful eye of Alan Killigrew, which added to the fun.

My father, a professional runner himself, insisted that I did not wear commercial shoes. He had handmade kangaroo hide slippers made for his princess by Hope Sweeney and his Italian shoemaker in Bourke Street. I would catch the tram into the Melbourne Town Hall, where Dad worked as an engineer, and we would walk to Hope's for fittings. These shoes always took months to be finished and would cost my father about 13 guineas a pair - more than his weekly wage at the time.

We walked to school and home - it was safe on the streets. School wasn't quite my go. I was constantly looking out windows dreaming of being outside in the field or playing some kind of sport. From some classrooms, Pentridge Prison loomed through the window as a reminder to always do the right thing in life. Its magnificent bluestone walls seemed to touch the clouds.

When I walked home, I would pick flowers over fences to put in a vase for my mother. We both loved the garden.

I loved autumn and spring in Melbourne, particularly for farewelling summer and then welcoming it back.

I have a vivid memory of the beautiful colour of autumn leaves, kicking them and then throwing handfuls at each other and watching the plants go to sleep for winter. Then buds would burst into beautiful vibrant greens announcing new life as the leaves emerged and seemed to stretch out of a long, cold Melbourne winter.

I would catch the tram along Sydney Road after school on my way to training at Royal Park North listening to the clickety-clack and watching the busy shops. It was a pretty happy place.

Life was worry-free. I had a gift of being able to run fast and opportunities to travel and see the world. I had the chance to meet interesting people and grow as a human being.

As an adult, my happiest visions of Melbourne are of my time in charge of Prahran's beautiful Victoria Gardens. Although this was also where my breast cancer journey first began, it was a time filled with beautiful local people that showed me friendship and support at a very difficult time.

It was also at this time that I linked up with a national organisation that calls Melbourne home, Breast Cancer Network Australia, which has brought me to my most rewarding role, supporting others affected by breast cancer.

I look back now and see that my commitment, my respect for others and my gift, and working with people along the way have all contributed to my happy life and to the freedom I enjoy today.

Raelene Boyle was a three-time Olympic silver medallist in athletics and is now an ambassador for Breast Cancer Network Australia.

Last edited by Admin on Mon Oct 24, 2011 11:04 am; edited 1 time in total

2 Hope Sweeneys on Mon Oct 24, 2011 11:02 am


I Remember getting fitted with my white leather Sweeney's in 1972 or 73,hope was a very likable character who only wanted the best for you,wishing you could run faster in his home made sprint shoe , they served me well winning lots of races thanks for the memories Hope! Very Happy

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