Sir JohnWalker bronze statue un­veiled

Papakura Courier - - SPORT - ALAN APTED

Ath­let­ics roy­alty were in at­ten­dance for the un­veil­ing of a statue hon­our­ing mid­dle-dis­tance run­ning leg­end Sir John Walker last Satur­day.

They in­cluded New Zealand Sports Hall of Famer Bill Bail­lie; 1972 Olympic Games 1500m bronze medal­list Rod Dixon; Arch Jel­ley, Sir John’s equally fa­mous coach; and Mil­lie Samp­son, a mul­ti­ple NZ women’s cross-coun­try cham­pion and the first Kiwi woman to set a world best in the marathon.

A number couldn’t make the un­veil­ing but sent con­grat­u­la­tions, among them mid­dle-dis­tance run­ning greats Sir Peter Snell, win­ner of three Olympic gold medals in­clud­ing the 800m and 1500m dou­ble in Tokyo in 1964, and dou­ble Olympic gold medal­list and In­ter­na­tional Ath­letic Fed­er­a­tion president Se­bas­tian Coe.

Coe promised Sir John he will be com­ing to see him and visit his statue one day soon.

The life-sized bronze statue sits on the foot­path out­side 171 Great South Road, Ma­nurewa, fac­ing the Ma­nurewa Cen­tral School where Sir John was ed­u­cated.

It was sculp­tured by Flat Bush artist Joanne Sul­li­van, whose pre­vi­ous works in­clude Phar Lap. It de­picts the mo­ment Walker crosses the fin­ish line to win the 1500 me­tres gold medal at the 1976 Mon­treal Olympics.

It cost $160,000 and was com­mis­sioned by a group of sup­port­ers - Keith MacKin­lay, Graeme Dou­glas, one of Sir John’s first coaches, Dave Sirl and Sir Ralph Nor­ris - who make up the Sir John Walker Legacy Trust. They trav­elled the coun­try look­ing at stat­ues be­fore set­tling on Sul­li­van as the artist.

Sir John, who was ini­tially taken aback by the idea of hav­ing a statue erected in his hon­our, liked what he saw.

‘‘I’m re­ally happy with it. It’s so life­like and re­ally cap­tures the mo­ment,’’ Sir John says.

Sul­li­van says it was an ab­so­lute dream to work on the pro­ject.

‘‘There was a lot more anatomy and ath­leti­cism to show but I’m happy and com­fort­able with the piece.’’

Sir John, who later at­tended Ma­nurewa In­ter­me­di­ate and Ma­nurewa High, broke the mile world record in 1975 with a time of three min­utes and 49.4 sec­onds. The run­ner of 100 sub-four-minute miles broke the world 2000m record the fol­low­ing year.

Sir John, an Auck­land coun­cil­lor for Pa­pakura-Ma­nurewa, re­mains ac­tively in­volved in cre­at­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for chil­dren through his Find Your Field of Dreams Foun­da­tion.

Lady He­len Walker, left, Sir John Walker and sculp­tor Joanne Sul­li­van and the newly re­vealed tribute to the cham­pion ath­lete.

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