Torquay Olympians of the 1980s

The Moscow Olympics are remembered for many things, but mostly for the boycott of the Games. Led by the United States, 65 nations boycotted the Games in protest of the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979. In the end, 80 nations competed. Australia did compete, though many athletes chose – or were pressured – not to attend. Pam Westendorf was one of those athletes who competed.

In protest of the Afghanistan invasion, Australia did not march behind the national flag in the Opening Ceremony. Instead, Australia’s joint flagbearers Denise Boyd (athletics) and Max Metzker (swimming), carried the Olympic flag.

After boycotts, financial blow-outs and tragic terrorist attacks at recent Games, the Olympics suffered another shocking blow at Seoul in 1988: the doping disqualification of Canada’s Ben Johnson after his victory in the men’s 100m sprint. During the Games, nine other athletes were disqualified from competitions after failing doping tests.

Australia sent its biggest team ever overseas to an Olympics, surpassed only by the team for Melbourne in 1956. It returned with 14 medals: three gold, five silver and six bronze. Kayakers Peter Foster and Kelvin Graham contributed to the medal tally when they won a bronze in the K2 1000m.

1980 Moscow Olympics

Pam Westendorf

Pamela Westendorf is an Australian former lightweight rower. She competed in twelve successful interstate crews, competed in the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games in a Coxed Four (3 seat), represented Australia at five World Championships over a twelve-year period and won a silver medal at the 1990 World Rowing Championships.

Pam first began rowing as a 15-year-old Dimboola school girl during 1974 on the Wimmera River. She first rowed stroke side (the right-hand side of a rower facing backwards) but switched to the bow side, which she maintained throughout her career.

Pam made her first Victorian state representation in 1977, then Australian representative debut in the women’s heavyweight eight who rowed to an eighth place at the 1978 World Rowing Championships in New Zealand. After those world championships, Australia sent its first women’s rowing team to the Olympics in 1980 in Moscow, which was only the second time that women’s rowing featured in the Olympic programme. The coxed four with Pam in the three-seat rowed to a fifth placing.

Pam competed at world championships in 1981 and 1982 before having some time away from the national fold. In 1990, she returned to represent Australia in the world championships at Lake Barrington in Tasmania where she claimed her only medal at a world championship event – a silver medal.

Pam rowed with Victoria for a couple years after that before retiring. She went into coaching and competes in masters events.

She now lives in Bellbrae and runs Bowside Cafe on the Great Ocean Road, named after the side of the boat she spent her career rowing in.

Pam’s husband Ray Heathcote passed away earlier this year. Ray is the only Torquay Surf Life Saving Club Boat sweep to take out an Australian Title sweeping his crew to victory in the Reserve Grade Boat final in 1978.

1988 Seoul Olympics

Peter Foster rower

Peter Foster is an Australian sprint canoeist who competed in the late 1980s. He won the bronze medal in the Kayak doubles 1000 m event at the 1988 Seoul Olympics and competed in the Kayak doubles 500m.

Peter first became enthusiastic about canoeing while a member at the Anglesea Surf Life Saving Club at approximately the age of 14. He developed a passion for competing and later moved on to compete for the Torquay Surf Life Saving Club. Peter is a 3-time Australian Surf Life Saving Champion taking out Gold in 1985 and 1986 as a member of the Torquay’s Senior Ski Relay Team with Cliff Goulding and Anthony Orwin. He also took out Gold for Torquay in 1987 in the Senior Double Ski Race with Tim Munro.

His father John competed for Australia in water polo at the 1952 and 1956 Summer Olympics. His sister Margot won a bronze in the women’s coxed four event at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

On occasions he has been involved with the Australia Olympic selection committee for canoeing.

Bryan Thomas Rowing

Byran Thomas is an Australian sprint canoeist who competed in the late 1980s. He finished fourth in the K-4 1000 m event at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul.

Bryan is an outstanding Torquay Surf Life Saving Club Member and although he lives and works in Ballarat, he completed 26 seasons of Patrol Duty. He won a Gold Medal at the Victorian State Titles in 1982/83 in the B Malibu Race and was a Senior Club Champion.  In 1984 he won the Jim Wall Iron Man. From 2011 to 2017 Bryan took on the role as Competition Director and Team manager. For his outstanding service to Torquay Surf Life Saving Club Bryan was awarded Life Membership in 2018.

James Galloway rowing

James Galloway OAM is an Australian former national champion, World Champion and Commonwealth Games (1986 Edinburgh) gold medal winning rower. James competed in the Coxed Eights at the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics, the team achieving 5th place. James was a member of Torquay Surf Life Saving Club gaining his Bronze in 1993 and competing in boat events.

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