Thursday, 21 August 2008

Edwin Flack - our first Olympian

With all the excitement of the Olympic Games in China, you may not know that Casey Cardinia has our own Olympic Champion, Edwin Flack. Edwin took part in the first of the Modern Olympics, held in Athens in 1896. He came first in the 800 metres, in a time of 2 minutes 11 seconds and first in the 1500 metres (4 minutes, 33.2 seconds). Edwin was born in London on November 5, 1873 and came to Australia with his parents, Joseph and Marian, in September 1874. The family settled in South Yarra and Edwin attended Melbourne Grammar School, then in 1892 he joined his father in the Accountancy firm of Davey, Flack and Company. Edwin took place in various athletic competitions including winning State titles in one and two mile races and in 1894 held the New South Wales record for the two mile event.
He left to work for Price, Waterhouse and Co. in London in 1895 and also joined the London Athletics Club. Edwin was keen to attend the Athens Olympics and used his Annual Leave, paid his own way to attend and paid all his own expenses once he arrived. The trip from London took 6 days. The Games were officially opened by the Greek King on April 6th 1895. Flack raced in his old Melbourne Grammar uniform. The track and field events were dominated by the Americans and Flack was the first non-American to win an event, the 1500m, on April 7th. The next day he competed in the Singles Tennis and the Doubles Tennis, he then went on to win the 800m race. He recorded in his diary that he 'won comfortably'. The day after that, April 9th, Edwin entered the 26 mile Marathon, but collapsed after 23 miles and didn't finish the event. It is no wonder that he gained the nickname The lion of Athens. Edwin returned to Melbourne in 1898 and worked as an Accountant.

The Panathenean Stadium in Athens.
The opening ceremony, on Easter Monday, 6 April 1896, drew a crowd of almost 80,000.
311 athletes took part in the Games of which 230 were Greek.

His actual connection to Casey Cardinia doesn't come about until 1916 when he purchased three parcels of land in Berwick , 75 acres, 48 acres and 44 acres (all up, around 67 hectares). This included the property Burnbank, of which the earliest section dates from c. 1854, where Flack established a Friesian stud. He died in 1935 at the age of 61, was cremated, and has a headstone in the Berwick cemetery. He never married.
Edwin Flack has been honoured with a Statue in High Street Berwick, opposite the Berwick Inn.

Sources : Edwin Flack : the lion of Athens by Peter Sweeney (Published by the Author, 2004). Available for loan at Casey Cardinia Libraries.
The City of Casey website has a tribute to Edwin Flack. Follow this link or go to > About Casey > History of Casey > Edwin Flack. The photographs on this post are taken from the City of Casey website.

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