Sad news today with the passing of Australia’s dual Olympic and Commonwealth Games representative Allan Lawrence.
Aged 86, a resident of Houston, Texas for many decades, Lawrence passed away after a battle with Pancreatic cancer.
Born in Sydney, he won Australia’s first athletics medal at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, winning a bronze, in the 10,000 metres.
Al Lawrence was a leading NSW runner in the mid-50s, winning 11 NSW titles in cross country and road running. He started his international career at the 1954 Commonwealth Games in Vancouver, where he placed eighth in the 6 miles and tenth in the 3 miles.
At the Games, he also competed in one of the most gruelling marathons in Championship history, made famous by Jim Peters (GBR) who entered the stadium in first place and after collapsing 11 times was taken off the track by the officials.
Lawrence, one of 10 of the 16 starters who failed to finish, withdrew around the 35km mark, after carrying his shoes in his hand for a mile and being unaware of doing this.
Two years later he won selection for the Melbourne Olympics. In the 10,000m, he won the bronze medal after a battle with Hungarian Jozsef Kovacs, running the last mile in 4:33 and 400m in 62.0 seconds.
Later in the Games he won his 5000m heat, but sustained an injury that forced him to withdraw from the final.
In the late 50s he studied at the University of Houston where he was a sensation in cross country and indoor athletics. He won US college (NCAA) cross country titles, set world indoor records and even won US national titles.
He was selected for the 1960 Olympics where he placed fourth in his 5000m heat and 54th in the marathon. During his career, he broke over 10 Australian records from 2 miles to 10,000m and was the first Australian to break 14 minutes for 5000m and 30 and 29 minutes for 10,000m. In the early 80s he became an American citizen and set up a successful coaching business ‘Al Lawrence Running Club’ based in Houston.
He remained in Houston until his death this week.