BY CLEMENT DU PLESSIS
This is the last chapter of a four-part series about the former schoolboy and senior men’s sprint champion Gareth Mclean (Read part three here).
MCLEAN tells an interesting story of how he had been awarded Western Province Senior Schools Sports Union athletics colours.
“When Cecil Blows honoured the WP Senior Schools athletes with badges in 1974, he ran out of badges and some athletes did not get. I was unfortunate in not getting a WP badge for my blazer. One of the girls, Sharon Alexander, had an extra badge at home and gave it to me. It was, however, a 1973 badge. The picture that I have framed in my house is of the 1973 badge. Although I only represented WP Schools in 1974, it still gives me great joy looking at my senior schools’ badge as it brings back good memories of my days when I represented WP Senior Schools.”
Club meetings and Allan O’Ryan
Mclean speaks proudly about the club meetings at the University of Cape Town’s track in Pinelands.
“We had numerous meetings at the Pinelands track. These regular competitions kept us sharp. All the regulars were in attendance and we got to know each other on and off the track.”
It was there, at the club meetings, where he became good friends with another top athlete Allan O’Ryan.
“He loved athletics as much as I did. We trained together and socialised. Allan was a 400m specialist and held the SA title for a number of years but he was always keen to jump into the 100m for some speed training.”
The one-hour athletic meetings at the Athlone stadium was another highlight for Mclean.
Mclean and Collier
“The preparation for these competitions were very fierce, especially if May knew that Collier would be in attendance. At one such specific meeting at the Athlone Stadium, they had two beautiful trophies on display. One for the men’s 100m and the other for the men’s 200m. The Alec Jephta trophy for the 100m was magnificent. I was fortunate to win both the 100m and 200m trophies on the night. The photo with all the big names in the 100m is my favourite and I am particularly proud of it. George Montanus was second and Collier was third with Andy James in fourth place. I am not sure if Mohammed Paleker or Allan O’Ryan was in this race. Someone was in lane two and does not appear in the picture, but did not finish in the first four. It could be either one of them.”
(Mclean is referring to the featured photograph, above, from left: Collier, James, and Mclean)
Mclean also describes the fierce rivalry in the medley relay between WP and Natal.
“The medley relay (800m, 200m, 200m and 400m) was always the highlight at the end of the day at the SA Championships. It was not just a race. It was an all-out war. WP vs Natal. Eddie May would be like a general marshalling his troops. He usually picked the team. Wilfred Daniels (800m); Andy James (first 200m); Gareth Mclean (second 200m) and Allan O’Ryan (400m). We faced the Natal team of Jock Munduray, Percy Chetty, Yusuf Motala, and Ismail Collier. I remember the last medley relay at the Athlone Stadium against Natal. Eddie was filming with his 8mm camera. At the last hand over, he forgot he was filming and threw down his camera and ran across the field while urging us on. We won the relay but Eddie’s camera was broken and the race was not recorded.”
The Mclean interview was a long one indeed and he signed off saluting the athletes of yesteryear:
“To all my fellow athletes from our glory days in the 1970’s, I say thank you for the wonderful memories. John Wippenaar, The Charles twins, Herman Gibbs, Vernon Balie, Andy James, George Montanus, Mohammed Paleker, Ismail Collier, Allan O’Ryan and lastly, my mentor Eddie May.
“I salute you all. Remember, as Allan O’Ryan said: “LEGENDS NEVER DIE!”