CE­CIL HEALY

Inside Sport - - Know More - – Jeff Cen­ten­era

A BI­OG­RA­PHY

BY JOHN DE­VITT AND LARRY WRITER, STOKE HILL PRESS, $39.95

Ce­cil Healy is among those Aus­tralian sport­ing tales that de­serve to be bet­ter-known. He en­tered into Olympic lore in the 1912 Stock­holm Games as the vir­tu­ous com­peti­tor who in­sisted that the Amer­i­can great, Duke Ka­hanamoku, be al­lowed to con­test the 100m fi­nal af­ter the Hawai­ian great missed the semi af­ter con­fu­sion over the start time. Healy in­sisted he wouldn’t race if the Duke could not; both did, and Healy fin­ished sec­ond to Ka­hanamoku.

If that weren’t enough of a legacy, Healy is also the only Aus­tralian Olympic gold medal­list to have died at war. A lieu­tenant in the AIF, he was killed in fight­ing at the Somme, some 74 days be­fore the armistice was signed. He was 36.

The meta-nar­ra­tive of this bi­og­ra­phy is al­most as good as the sub­ject – John De­vitt, the 100m free cham­pion of the 1960 Olympics, re­gards Healy as his sport­ing hero. Com­bin­ing with Larry Writer, who has writ­ten pre­vi­ous books on Rod Laver, St Ge­orge’s rugby league dy­nasty and the ’36 Ber­lin Olympics, this is also the story of the au­thors delv­ing into the leg­end of Healy, around the Syd­ney pools and beaches that pro­duced him, to the grounds of of­fi­cer train­ing in Bri­tain.

The Aus­tralian Olympic Com­mit­tee re­cently an­nounced a new award named af­ter Healy, which it will hand out every Games to hon­our a great act of sports­man­ship. Be­tween that hon­our and this fine book, one can only hope that Healy’s life and ex­am­ple gain their proper fame.

Good for: Those seek­ing a true-life Boys’ Own tale, and for its por­trait of Aus­tralia at the turn of the cen­tury.

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