Tasmania has a long and proud history of Olympic achievement dating back to the formation of the Tasmanian Olympic Council in 1911, and the 1912 Games in Stockholm where rower Cecil McVilly became our first Olympian. After a twenty-year wait, Bill Barwick became Tasmania's next representative when he ran the 1500 metres on the Los Angeles athletic track in 1932. In the first Games following the Second World War, boxer Ron Gower and rower Thomas Darcey took centre stage in 1948 in London.
Then followed the 1952 Games in Helsinki where Gower became the state's first dual Olympian. Also in the team were cyclist Jim Nevin and yachtsman Peter Atrill, a current member of the Tasmanian Olympic Council Executive Committee. Nevin again appeared in the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne with Father John Hayres (swimming), Heather Innes (athletics), Alistair Rattray (football – soccer) and David Lean (athletics). Lean became Tasmania's first medallist with a silver in the 4x400 metres relay.
The years 1960, 1964 and 1968 were barren for Tasmania, with Gerald Freeman (boxing) the only Tasmanian competitor in Rome in 1960, and cyclist Kevin Morgan in a similar situation in the 1968 Mexico City games. He was followed in 1972 in Munich by Sperry Marshall (shooting), the great Danny Clark (cycling) and Wayne Devlin (boxing). Devlin became a dual Olympian when he appeared at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal beside diver Elizabeth Jack, rower Ted Hale and athlete David Chettle. Weightlifter Gino Fratangelo and cyclist Michael Wilson were Tasmania's representatives at the boycott-marred 1980 Moscow Olympics.
The 1984 Los Angeles Games saw Tasmania's first gold medal coming from cyclist Michael Grenda. He was part of a large Tasmanian contingent which included Penny Dunbabin (née Gray, hockey), Kathy Foster (née Davey, basketball), John Doak (canoe), Peter Genders (kayak), Brett Stocks (swimming), Audrey Youl (née Moore, swimming) and Julie Kent (diving). The 1988 Seoul Olympics saw Tasmania's Maree Fish (hockey) win gold, while Kent became another dual Olympian. Yachtsmen David Connor and Gary Smith and weightlifter Ron Laycock also competed in Seoul.
Laycock backed up in Barcelona in 1992 beside Chris Bacon (judo), Peter Eckhardt (canoe), gold medallist Stephen Hawkins (rowing), Dominic Longo (football – soccer), Grant Rice (cycling), Richard Fromberg (tennis), Daniel Collins (kayak), Simon Hollingsworth (athletics), Gail Luke (née Millar, athletics) and Justann Crawford (boxing). With eleven representatives, Barcelona was Tasmania's biggest Olympics to that time.
The record was soon to be equalled with eleven representatives also named in the team for Atlanta in 1996. Hollingsworth, Collins and Crawford each returned for their second Olympics and they were joined by Carla Boyd (basketball – bronze medal), Justin Boocock (canoe), Simon Burgess (rowing), Scott Goodman (swimming), Tim O'Shannessy (cycling), Kylie Risk (athletics), Susan Andrews (athletics) and Daniel Sproule (hockey – silver medal).
Basketballer Carla Boyd picked up a silver medal in Sydney in 2000 to become Tasmania's first dual medallist, while rowers Simon Burgess and Darren Balmforth also brought home silver medals. Other Tasmanians to go to Sydney were Sproule and Matthew Wells (hockey), kayaker Daniel Collins who became Tasmania's first triple Olympian, Craig Walton (triathlon) and Daniel Geale (boxing). Athletes Kylie Risk and Susan Andrews became dual Olympians as a result of competing in Sydney.
If success is measured in medals, Athens 2004 was Tasmania's most successful Olympics with five medals among the ten Tasmanian athletes. Matthew Wells (hockey) picked up gold, Simmone Morrow (softball) and Simon Burgess (rowing) gained silver, and the bronze medallists were fellow rowers Kerry Hore and Dana Faletic. Other Tasmanians were rowers Scott Brennan, Brendon Long and Cameron Wurf, mountain biker Sid Taberlay and Will Hamlyn-Harris (javelin).
And they are just the competitors – there are many (far too many to mention) Tasmanian officials, administrators and volunteers who have also proudly represented Tasmania on the Olympic scene.
Further reading: H Gordon, Australia and the Olympic Games, St Lucia, 1994; and The time of our lives, St Lucia, 2003.