Raelene Boyle crosses the line first in Brisbane in 1982 to take victory in the 400m.
Raelene Boyle crosses the line first in Brisbane in 1982 to take victory in the 400m.

How Rocky steered Boyle to ‘82 victory

IT was the event which made her a Commonwealth Games legend but Raelene Boyle cannot hide the truth ... she hated it.

"Not just hated it but hated it with a passion,'' Australia's former track queen said of the lung-busting 400m which subjected her to short-term pain but long-lasting pleasure.

After spending her entire senior career as a 100m and 200m sprinter, Boyle boldly leapt into her "discomfort zone'' for the 400m at the Brisbane Commonwealth Games in 1982, her career swan song.

Raelene Boyle crosses the lien in Brisbane in 1982.
Raelene Boyle crosses the lien in Brisbane in 1982.

"The 400m is probably the one track and field event that hurts like nothing else. It hurts from the back of your knees to the middle of your back. I admire the Cathy Freemans of the world who fronted up and did it time after time. I could never have done that.''

Boyle switched to the 400m because of one reason - she wanted to win.

"I was very definitely a sprinter. I did not really like running in anywhere near an event you had to breathe in really," Boyle said.

"It was a sensible thing to do to run the 400m. I did not have the competitive speed any more for the 100m and 200m. The big thing was I wanted to run a race I thought I could win.''

It was the perfect end to Raelene Boyle’s career. .
It was the perfect end to Raelene Boyle’s career. .

Boyle, who lives on Queensland's Sunshine Coast, never has to travel far to be reminded of that sunny afternoon when a nation stopped as if her race was the Melbourne Cup on two legs.

"It's bizarre. I still get people tell me where they were when the race was run," she said.

"One story I remember was someone saying they were on the corner of a road and none of the cars moved when the lights changed colour because everyone was sitting in their cars listening to it.

"There were people rushing to look in the windows at television on Myers. It was special. You don't say that about too many things.''

The farewell could not have been sweeter for Boyle because her entire career was characterised by getting much less than she deserved.

Two of her three Olympic silver medals came after she was beaten by East German drug cheat Renate Stecher and government pressure forced her to join the Moscow Olympic boycott in 1980.

Raelene Boyle soaks up the adulation of the crowd.
Raelene Boyle soaks up the adulation of the crowd.

But the sweet punchline of 82 will always be a soothing balm.

She'll always have Brisbane.

Boyle began the race strongly and, careful not to overspend early, kept her rhythm in the back straight before surging away with 100m to go for her seventh Commonwealth Games gold medal as the television commentator said "she gets what she deserves from a lifetime of dedication to the sport.''

The crowd erupted and the day was capped when Boyle's idol Betty Cuthbert attended the medal ceremony.

Raelene Boyle back at the scene of her victory. .
Raelene Boyle back at the scene of her victory. .

"I loved Betty. In many ways Brisbane gave me a lot more than Moscow could have. There was so many benefits to competing in Australia. I felt like the whole country was with me," Boyle said.

"I had friends and family around who would not have gone to Moscow.

"I always preferred to compete on home soil because I got terribly homesick.''

Boyle looked nerveless throughout the race but what nerves she did have were soothed by a song playing inside her head.

"I remember the song from the Rocky movie Eye Of A Tiger was going through my head down the back straight. There is a line which says "opening up to the challenges of my rivals'' and it just kept going around," she said.

"It kept me calm so I did not blow the race in the best race. It was almost as if I was ready for the challenges.''

The race is long gone but the memory will never leave her and just to make sure they remain strong she was given a photo of the race which has an inbuilt recording of Tim Lane's call.

"You can hear Herb Elliott saying after the race "I am not sure what Raelene is feeling down there but I know what I am feeling up here'.

"It was quite amazing. He is such a gentleman. I have beautiful memories of friendships with Herb and John Landy and I don't know the kids today have those sorts of friendships with their former great performers. I cherish them.''



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