Commonwealth Games Australia mourns the passing of two-time Commonwealth Games silver medallist and Olympic silver medallist Charles ‘Chilla’ Porter, who passed away on Sunday aged 84.
Chilla won silver medals in the high jump at the 1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Cardiff and again in Perth in 1962.
He was most famous for his epic duel with American Charles Dumas in fading light at the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne where Porter also won the silver medal. The event occurred on the opening day of competition, lasted over five hours and became part of track and field folklore.
In Cardiff two years later, Porter leapt 6 ft 8 in (2.03m) behind gold medallist Ernest Haisley of Jamaica. After missing the final at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics Games, Porter again claimed silver in Perth at the home British Empire and Commonwealth Games in a close tussle with teammate Percy Hobson. Porter cleared 6 ft 10 in (2.08m) to Hobson’s 6 ft 11 in (2.11m). Hobson’s win was notable as he became Australia’s first indigenous gold medallist at the Commonwealth Games.
Chilla won seven straight Australian titles in the high jump from 1955 to 1961, held the Australian record for six years and was the first Australian to clear 2.10m.
His involvement in athletics continued long after his competition days concluded, serving as a board member, chair and chief executive of Athletics Western Australia and was chair of the Western Australian Institute of Sport (WAIS).
He was inducted into the Athletics Australia Hall of Fame in 2011.
Chilla Porter competing at the Melbourne 1956 Olympic Games (Otto Corsie, YouTube)
Porter’s son Christian, who became federal Attorney-General for Australia in December and continues in the role today, said in a statement:
“Dad was an unknown 19-year-old Brisbane boy who for almost seven hours went jump for jump with the world-record holding American Charles Dumas who had only months earlier become the first man to break the seven-foot barrier and who was the best field athlete in the world,” Mr Porter said.
“Under unimaginable pressure, Chilla smashed his own personal best by almost two inches and in the end just clipped the bar in his final attempt at the winning height to see Dumas clinch gold.”
“It must truly have been something special because people of all walks of life from that time will stop me in the street 64 years later to say that they were there and still remember every jump,” Mr Porter said.
“In the end one of the physically strongest men Australia has produced had his cancer go to his bones and like so many Australian families who fight the cruel things cancer does he went through far too much over the final few weeks.”
Porter also had a strong interest in politics. His father Charles Porter was a Queensland Liberal state MP between 1966 and 1980 and served in the ministry of Joh Bjelke-Petersen. After his athletics career, Chilla became the director of the Western Australian Liberal Party’s state division.
“Neither my sister or I knew that tenacious 19-year-old who did those amazing athletic feats and went on to be seven-times national champion and inducted into the Australian athletics hall of fame and we barely recognised what cancer did in the end.”
“But Shani and I had our entire life blessed by the most devoted of fathers and Mum got married at 19 to the most devoted of husbands and so we will always remember that wonderful loving father and husband and grandfather who lived such a fantastic life,“ Mr Porter said.