Sir Murray Halberg appointed to Order of NZ

By Catherine Masters

Sir Murray Halberg sets off at a cracking pace to the car park up the hill from the Waiheke ferry terminal.

Later, the 74-year-old says his pace has slowed and he is often overtaken by ferry commuters hurrying home.

The truth is, though his running days are long over, he is fighting fit and it's not hard to believe the Olympic gold medallist could sprint past anyone if he put his mind to it.

He says no, the old bones prevent him from running any more.

"My doctor says, 'Look, don't worry about jogging and all of those things, you're not trying to make the Olympic team this year'."

Sir Murray has welcomed us to Waiheke because something "pretty good" has happened.

He has been appointed to the Order of New Zealand, the highest honour in the land, for more than 50 years of service to athletics and charity work.

Click here for full list of honours

He was knighted in 1987, but believes being made part of the Order of New Zealand is something special. More meaningful.

"The nice thing about the awards now is that they bear the name of the country - the Order of New Zealand - and that to me is wonderful."

As a young man, Sir Murray won gold medals for running at the Olympic and Commonwealth Games and broke a truckload of records.

In the 50s and 60s, he was one of the nation's favourite sons.

But he is also known for another side, a philanthropic side. In 1963, he used his running profile to set up what is now known as the Halberg Trust, formerly the Murray Halberg Trust for Crippled Children.

Family aside, the trust and its achievements are his passion and pride.

He's a modest being, the type of Kiwi bloke you would call a true gent.

Neither his success on the track nor the success of the Halberg Trust is a one-man creation, he says. It's team work.

He would never have won gold without Arthur Lydiard, and the trust would not have grown to such a thriving organisation giving opportunity to young people, particularly those with disabilities, to participate in sport, without the help and support of thousands of people.

When he talks about the trust, the clear blue eyes become animated.

He thinks he does have an affinity with disabled children, "I guess because I'm disabled myself."

When Sir Murray was 17, a rugby accident left his left arm paralysed and largely useless.

He doesn't want to labour his health, "but the fact is that the arm died and it was extremely painful. I can still remember the pain 50 years ago."

What does a determined young man do? He puts the pain to use.

"I guess it taught me that in this case pain was something that wasn't going to last forever, that wasn't going to be life-threatening, and that if I worked through it I'd be fine."

This philosophy took him to the Olympic Games and in 1960 in Rome he shared a special hour with Peter Snell, Sir Murray taking gold in the 5000m and Snell gold in the 800m.

The arm injury had taught him he could go to the depths of his physical and mental strengths and survive.

"I knew this because of the way I trained, and I'd actually practised doing this, how far could I take this without killing myself."

He asks for a plug for his trust's website, so anyone with a disability, or a parent of a child with a disability, who needs a little assistance or advice on getting involved in sport can get in touch.

For the newest member of the Order of New Zealand, we're happy to oblige.

The website is: www.halberg.co.nz

ORDER OF NZ MEMBERS

* Lady June Blundell, philanthropist
* Jim Bolger, politician
* Vera Blumhardt, artist
* Dame Miriam Dell, women's advocate
* Ken Douglas, trade unionist
* Professor Lloyd Geering, theologian
* Sir Murray Halberg, athlete
* Jonathan Hunt, politician
* Sir Kenneth Keith, judge
* Ivan Lichter, thoracic surgeon
* Don McKinnon, politician
* Margaret Mahy, author
* Mike Moore, politician
* Whetu Tirikatene-Sullivan, politician
* Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, opera singer
* Sir Miles Warren, architect
* Cliff Whiting, artist
* Thomas Williams, cardinal

- NZ Herald

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