KIWI sporting hero Sir Murray Halberg is happy to share the credit for his lifetime of achievements.
“Whatever success I’ve had was because of good coaching or training partners and competitors,” he says.
“I’ve been able to ride on the success of my athletic career to put together this charity.”
Sir Murray was appointed to the Order of New Zealand on Monday for his dedication to athletics and the establishment of the Halberg Trust.
Though born in Eketahuna, Sir Murray says he’s an Aucklander through and through.
He grew up in Mt Albert, attending Pt Chevalier Primary and Avondale College.
It was at Avondale, he says, where his love of sport began.
“It’s always been a good nursery for sport,” he says.
He has seen the city go through many changes.
He remembers taking his wife Phyllis to Pt Erin park while they were still courting and watching the final section of the harbour bridge being lowered into position.
“I’ve lived through all of that,” he says.
“In those days if we owned a car that could get over the harbour bridge in top gear we were considered to be very lucky.”
He now divides his time between his house in Epsom and a home on Waiheke.
Sir Murray’s sporting accomplishments are wellknown to many New Zealanders.
He first made his mark in the 1950s as a world class miler and has a raft of impressive wins under his belt, including winning the New Zealand three-mile championship five times between 1958 and 1962 and setting multiple records.
His greatest success was winning the gold medal for the 5000 metres at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome, which he still considers the pinnacle of his sporting career.
“I was a very blinkered young man. It had been my focus for some years to win gold.” But his sporting achievements are only part of the mark he has left on the country.
In 1963 he established the Murray Halberg Trust for Crippled Children, now known as the Halberg Trust.
The Halberg Trust took over management of the New Zealand Sportsman of the Year Award, today known as the Halberg Awards.
The idea to start the trust came after a trip to a Toronto fundraising event for disabled children involved in sport.
One of the first steps was to resurrect the Sportsman of the Year Award, which had been discontinued.
At the time the award was held by sporting legend and close friend Peter Snell and he put the idea to him.
“I said: ‘ So what do you reckon mate?’
“And he just said: ‘Here you go Muzz,’ and handed the award over.”
Today the trust continues to build on its vision of giving opportunities to disabled children involved in sport.
The programmes provide facilities and special training and equipment to ensure they can participate.
Although retired, Sir Murray is still heavily involved in the trust through his position on its board.
His hope is that one day athletes with disabilities will be seen as sportsmen and women in their own right, “not just as a disabled person who can do sport”.
Accepting the honour that comes with this award, he says, is recognition of what the Halberg Trust is about.
He says the appointment is particularly special because there can be only 20 living members of the Order of New Zealand at any time.
But he is humble in accepting it and says the real pleasure comes from spending this time with family.
“Plenty of food and a glass or two of wine. You can’t want a great deal more than that.”
Honoured: Sir Murray Halberg’s dedication to athletics and the Halberg Trust has seen him appointed to the Order of New Zealand in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.