By Tracey Holmes for The Ticket and ABC Sport
Three-time Olympian and former International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Phil Coles has passed away in Sydney aged 91 (on Saturday 28th Januray 2023).
He will be remembered for his lifelong commitment to sport, particularly his significant role in ensuring athletes got to compete at the Moscow 1980 Olympics against the express wishes of then-prime minister Malcolm Fraser.
IOC member John Coates has remembered Mr Coles as one of Australian sport’s leaders.
“The athletes of Australia have lost one of their true champions and the AOC [Australian Olympic Committee] one of its strongest leaders,” Mr Coates said.
“It was Phil who was key to our participation in Moscow 1980 and notwithstanding intense personal and public abuse.
“It was this participation by the Australian Olympic team against the wishes of the then prime minister and Australian government that once and for all emphasised the independence of the Australian Olympic Committee.”
AOC president Ian Chesterman has also paid tribute.
“His service to Australian sport was immense,” Mr Chesterman said.
“Phil’s passing, after a lifetime in sport, is a sad day for the Olympic movement and for many involved in the wider sports community in Australia.
“I was particularly pleased to see Phil at the Tokyo Olympics at the canoe events, a chance for him to return to one of his host cities of his three Olympic Games as an athlete, and one that was obviously very important to him.
“He greatly enjoyed the opportunity to watch the current day competitors, the athletes being at the heart of his long service to the Olympic movement.”
In one of the last interviews Coles gave, ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, he told ABC’s The Ticket one of his last wishes was to get back to Tokyo where he captained the canoe team in the K-4 1000 metre event at the 1964 Olympics.
He got his wish. He took four Olympic pins, one for each of his crew, to throw into the lake on which they competed more than fifty years ago to commemorate the Olympic spirit which he devoted his life to.
Origin of content: ABC News
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Amongst Phil’s many accomplishments, he was a three-time Olympian, representing NSW: Rome 1960, Tokyo 1964 & Mexico 1968
K1 1000: 4th in Semi-Final 1: 4:08.05
4x500m K1 relay (Dennis Green, Barry Stuart, Phil Coles, Allan Livingstone): 3rd in Semi-Final 3: 8:09.02
MK4 1000 9th in Final 3:21.690
MK4 1000 (Phil Coles, Dennis green, Gordon Jeffery, Barry Stuart) 4th in Semi-Final 2 3:24.79
For his accomplishments, Phil was inducted as a NSW Canoe Association (now PaddleNSW) Life Member in 1977.