Hum­ble hero

Central Leader - - Front Page - By Jo­ce­lyn Rein

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.”

Photo: DO­MIN­ION POST

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.

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