By: Todd Dagwell
Many descriptions come to mind when talking about local identity Fred O'Connor but only one does him justice - "legend".
For more than 70 years he has created sporting history and at 85 he is still going strong.
"My lounge room is like a gymnasium with weights and equipment everywhere," he said.
A geniune all-rounder, Mr O'Connor has competed at the elite level in soccer, rugby league and cricket.
"I had a better bowling average than Bill Johnson who represented Australia alongside Don Bradman," he said.
A draftsman in the airforce during World War II, he was stationed in Melbourne and in 1946 returned to Sydney.
After marrying in 1948, he and his wife lived at St Johns Park, Canley Heights and Fairfield until 1962. They then moved to
Epping where Mr O'Connor has lived in the same house for more than 45 years.
Mr O'Connor has done it all, both as a player and a coach.
For 20 years he played soccer at the highest level and was a referee as well, rating in the top 10 in Australia in the 1970s.
"I was put in charge of the Australian team's last match before they left for the World Cup in Germany in 1974," he
He became a trainer / conditioner for other referees and this sparked an interest in athletics.
"During this time I ran 14 City to Surfs. I also travelled to San Francisco to run in the Barter Breaker run and came 70 out
of 10,000 people.It was then that I started to think there was a bit in this running business," he said.
Athletics was to become the sport where, at a more advanced age, Mr O'Connor forged an international reputation as a
Since 1981 he has won 38 medals at international masters events throughout the world and in 2005, at 84, he established a
new world record for the decathlon.
"The biggest highlight for me was the 1989 Veterans Athletics Tournament in Oregon. I broke records in the 100m and 200m
sprints and finished with two gold, three silver and one bronze. I was declared the best athlete of the tournament."
Of course, not one to rest on his laurels and with so much knowledge and experience to offer, he
Fred O'Connor is still coaching successful athletics students at the age of 85.
Picture: NICK ANDREAN
turned his attention to coaching.
More success followed, "I became the only coach that's had two World Junior Champions consecutively, one in Jamaica and one
He coached at Randwick-Botany and Cumberland-Ryde-Hornsby athletics clubs in the 1980's and has been coaching at Westfields
Sports for 14 years.
"My concentration is only on long jump, high jump and tripple jump with Westfields Sports.
Mr O'Conner said his coaching technique was different to those of many other coaches. "Technique is always the first and
formost thing a coach must teach," he said.
"But after that I concentrate on power which is a combined result of speed and strength."
At the end of the day it has to be fun as well he said. "If they have a lot of fun and enjoy it, they will stick with the
sport," he said.
His methods are clearly working as two of his best students Fabrice Lapierre, 23, and John Thornell, 21 - are
Australian champions in the long jump and have competed at the Commonwealth Games.
With thanks to
Wednesday 29th November 2006