Newly invested n Hall of Fame Legend Raelene Boyle considers herself blessed many times over, and not all of them in ways you might imagine.
One is to have won three Olympic sprint silver medals, without a gold. Two were behind East Germany’s Renate Stecher in Munich in 1972. Stecher came out of what is euphemistically called the Eastern bloc “system” of the time, and the question mark over her achievements has never been dispelled.
To Boyle, the green trim mattered as much as the gold. “I would have loved to have won a gold medal, but I think when I look at the circumstances of the East Germans and many other countries of the world and the way they dealt with their athletes, I was lucky that I was n,” she said.
“I didn’t have people pushing things on me that I didn’t want to take, and I can hold my head high and say that I never cheated once in my career.”
Boyle said she felt sorry for Stecher and her confreres. “Given a choice, win a silver medal and be n or win a gold medal and be an East German, I pick every time,” she said.
Born in Coburg, Boyle had three older brothers, but was never made to feel least. It means she has always held her own in all pursuits. She won 200 metres silver as a 17-year-old at Mexico City in 1968 and 100 metres and 200 metres silvers at Munich.
In Montreal in 1976, she became the first n woman to carry the flag at the opening ceremony. But two false starts put her out of her favourite 200 metres, and she finished fourth in the 100m. She competed in five Commonwealth Games, winning seven gold medals, and also won 14 national titles.
In 1996, long retired, Boyle was diagnosed with breast cancer. Subsequently, she was also diagnosed with ovarian cancer. A dark period followed, relieved by the honour of pushing the late Betty Cuthbert in her wheelchair, carrying the torch, in to the opening ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
Now 66, Boyle says cancer was another blessing in disguise. “I think my diagnosis with breast cancer has enhanced my life,” she said. “I think that being able to use my past to help me through mine but also to help other people through theirs, it’s given purpose to my life.” She has applied herself as a board member of Breast Cancer Network as she applied herself to running, flat out.
Boyle officially became a Hall of Fame Legend, the eighth from track and field and the 39th overall, at a dinner in Melbourne on Thursday night. Boxer Jeff Horn won The Don for his upset world welterweight title win over Filipino Manny Pacquiao, the performance considered to have most inspired the country in the past 12 months.
Horn beat a field that included the Matildas, Sally Pearson, AFLW best-and-fairest winner Erin Phillips, swimmer Emily Seebohm, rugby league’s Johnathan Thurston and surfer Tyler Wight. Pearson was up for what would have been an unprecedented third Don.
Horn said his triumph over the great Pacquiao still had not fully sunk in. “Many days I have thought to myself, did that really happen?” he said. “It’s been very hectic since the win, but recognition and awards like this certainly help.”
Eight n sporting figures were inducted in to the Hall of Fame. They are AFL record goalkicker Tony Lockett, Olympic gold medallists Lauren Burns (taekwondo), Steve Hooker (pole vault) and Brad McGee (cycling), Paralympians Troy Sachs (basketball) and Frank Ponta, water polo legend Debbie Handley Cummins and Dr Grace Bryant, a pioneer of sports medicine.
Hall of Fame chairman John Bertrand hailed the continuing ascent of interest in women’s sport in . “Women in sport … it powers on!” Bertrand said. “What a phenomena … the AFLW. And sell-out crowds for our national women’s cricket team, our netball Diamonds, our Matildas soccer team. Again, inspiring what young women all around the country can do … if they want.”