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Athletics icon Sir Murray Halberg dies


Eketahuna – New Zealand sports people will be in mourning following the death this wek of former Olympic 5000m champion and Halberg Foundation founder Sir Murray Halberg.

One of the most iconic names in New Zealand sport died two days ago, aged 89 his two grandchildren.

Sir Murray leaves a huge legacy after ushering in a golden age for the sport of athletics in New Zealand. For a decade he excelled as a world-class athlete on the international stage, memorably winning the 5000 metres at the 1960 Rome Olympics.

Away from the track he will also be remembered for his inspirational work in transforming the lives of children with a disability through sport as the founder of the Halberg Foundation.

Murray was a fierce competitor who gave his all on the track and a true champion in every respect and a great New Zealander.

Born in Eketahuna but raised in Auckland, Sir Murray’s life would change forever after he sustained a serious shoulder injury on the rugby field which left him with a withered left arm.

Needing to avoid contact sports the member of the Owairaka Athletics Club started to take athletics more seriously and after he was introduced to Arthur Lydiard his athletics career began to flourish.

Under Lydiard’s guidance from the age of 18, he significantly stepped up his training and on a weekly training load of around 100 miles a week he quickly developed into one of the country’s finest athletes winning the 1953 senior men’s cross country title at the age of just 20.

Becoming the first Kiwi to ever run a sub-four-minute mile in 1958, later that year he secured the Commonwealth Games three-mile title in Cardiff. Two weeks later he set a world best four-mile time of 18:22.6 in Dublin.

By the time of the 1960 Rome Olympics, Murray was a stronger more mature athlete and among the favourites for 5000m gold.

Training relentlessly, he capped one of the finest hours in the history of New Zealand sport when he took 5000m gold an hour or so after his training partner, Sir Peter Snell, claimed the Olympic 800m title. Snell died in Dallas Texas where he lived for much of his life on December 12, 2019.

For the past 56 years the charitable organisation in his name has enhanced the lives of many young people with a physical disability through sport and recreation. Among the foundation’s work is to host the annual Halberg Games for youngsters with a disability.