By TERRY MADDAFORD
John Davies, Athlete, coach, administrator. Died aged 65.
Arthur Lydiard, New Zealand's greatest athletics coach, is convinced that the death of John Davies this week has robbed New Zealand of one of its top sporting administrators.
At the time of his death, Davies was president of the New Zealand Olympic Committee.
Paying tribute to his former pupil, 86-year-old Lydiard said Davies was, of course, a top athlete, a top coach and top administrator.
"That's where he would have made his mark," said Lydiard. "We have lost a top sports administrator which we badly need."
Speaking this week from his hospital bed, where he was recovering from a leg operation, Lydiard described Davies as intelligent and never afraid to ask about things - attributes he showed throughout his career on and off the track.
Lydiard recalled first meeting Davies, who was from Tokoroa, in the early 1960s.
"I met him when he was at the Ardmore Teachers College. Someone said to me he felt Davies had the talent to be a top athlete.
"I did not know anything about him but when he approached me I was happy to listen and help. I never turned anyone down.
"He was, from the outset, sincere and intelligent. He accepted my training methods and approach to running. He was aware of the way I did things. There were other athletes down in Tokoroa using my methods and he felt he could benefit from them."
Lydiard, who already had Peter Snell in his "stable" of stars, said there was never any conflict when Davies joined his group, which included Murray Halberg, Ray Puckett, Jeff Julian and Barry Magee.
"He needed plenty of work early on. He was different from Snell but he did not lose many races. Snell had explosive speed but John could maintain speed."
John Davies and Lydiard were in Finland in 1961 when Davies beat over 3000m both Australian distance great Ron Clarke and American Bob Schul, who went on to win gold in the 5000m in Tokyo in 1964.
"He had the stamina over longer distances," said Lydiard.
Not surprisingly, Lydiard fondly remembers the 1964 Olympic 1500m final in Tokyo when Snell won gold and Davies a bronze medal. He had already told Snell he expected both he and Davies would win medals.
Davies did much of the work in that race, and was strong enough to hold on for third and the bronze.
Lydiard watched that race from the commentary box, where his voice could be heard over commentator Lance Cross, urging Davies to the line.
"Too right, that was one of the top races in mine and John's career," said a still-proud Lydiard.
Davies, who was actually born in London but was a fiercely proud Welshman, came to New Zealand in 1953 and went on to become one of the country's great coaches.
His many top runners - who included Dick Quax, Anne Audain, Lorraine Moller, Peter O'Donoghue, Melissa Moon and Toni Hodgkinson - owed him a huge debt.
"John Davies has proved himself to be a very good coach," said Lydiard. "We remained in contact. He never had a swollen head. He was a real gentleman. In every sense."
By TERRY MADDAFORD