Tribute to Torquay Olympic Legends

Australia has built a prestigious reputation on sporting excellence, integrity and a thriving community spirit. Participating in every modern Olympic Games since they commenced in 1896, also hosting them in 1956 and 2000, including the Surf Carnival held at Torquay in 1956.
Over the week Torquay Museum Without Walls will pay tribute through the decades to those Olympians who had a connection with Torquay.

 

1930s Torquay Olympians

Dick Garrard

Richard Edward “Dick” Garrard (1910-2003) was a founding member of the Torquay Surf Life Saving Club and later Torquay Boardriders. He was the first member of Torquay SLSC to represent Victoria at an Australian Surf Life Saving Championships. After competing in the London 1934 Empire Games (now called Commonwealth Games) he made his Olympic debut at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games in Australia’s wrestling squad. World War II robbed him of his best chances of winning an Olympic gold medal when the 1940 and 1944 Games were cancelled. Post-war Dick was again selected in a further three Olympic Games 1948 London, 1952 Helsinki and 1956 Melbourne winning a silver medal in the freestyle welterweight division at the 1948 London Games — one of only three Olympic medals ever won by Australian wrestlers. Although a member of the 1956 Olympic team he was unable to compete due to a shoulder injury.

1940s Torquay Olympians

Colin French (1916-1984), of ‘Frenchies’ on The Esplanade, Torquay, was a member of the Australian water polo team which made its Olympic debut in London 1948. Col was also in the Gold Medal Teams at the 1950 Auckland Empire Games (Commonwealth Games) both of these events with fellow TSLSC member Les McKay. Col was coach of the Australian Water Polo Teams at both the 1952 Helsinki and 1956 Melbourne Olympics. Colin was a junior and intermediate State swimming champion in backstroke during the early 1930s and Northcote club champion during this time. He transferred to join his father Bill at the Olympic Swimming Club in 1947 and captained the A grade team to a pennant win that year. He also competed in the first Torquay Surf Life Saving Club championships.

Marjorie McQuade

Marjorie McQuade (b.1934) represented Australia at the 1948 Summer Olympics in London at the age of 14 years and 11 days. Dubbed as Australia’s ‘Olympic Baby’, Marjorie was the youngest athlete to compete at the London Olympic Games. At the 1950 Auckland Empire Games (Commonwealth Games) Marjorie won three gold medals. Individually, she won the women’s 110-yard freestyle and was a member of the winning Australian women’s teams in the 4×110-yard freestyle relay and the 3×110-yard medley relay. Marjorie also won the heart of Australian water polo representative Peter Bennett who was a member of Torquay SLSC. She went on to compete at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. After missing selection for the 1954 Vancouver Empire Games Marjorie decided to turn professional and start coaching, aiming to coach Australia’s 1956 Olympic Games swimming team as well as save for her approaching marriage.

Les McKay

Les McKay (1917 – 1981) was a member of the Australian water polo team alongside Colin French which made its Olympic debut in 1948 Summer Olympics in London. At these games, he was given the honour to carry the national flag of Australia at the opening and closing ceremony becoming the first of five water polo players to be a flag bearer at the Olympics. Les McKay also carried the flag at the opening ceremony of the 1950 Auckland Empire games (Commonwealth Games) where he was a member of the Water Polo Team that won the Gold Medal. Known as a giant because of his 6ft 4in frame, Les was a junior champion at South Narrabeen Surf Life Saving and club champion at nineteen. He was a World War II veteran, moving to Melbourne after the war. He joined the Olympic Swim Club and became a member of the Torquay Surf Life Saving Club.

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