In an interview with the Herald about the time he first became involved with local and national politics, Dick Quax, who died yesterday aged 70, admitted he was, in his words, "opinionated".

Maybe, but brash and determined might better describe his approach.

From the time he first ventured north from the Waikato, where he had lived after he and his family had arrived from Holland in the 1960s, Quax stood out. Many will recall from the earliest times his trademark moustache.

While others might have found middle and long distance running not too challenging, Quax was one who had to work at it, especially as he was often battling injury, particularly shin splints which dogged him for much of his career.


Yet despite some setbacks, and many will recall his always ready laugh as he went about his training and competition, he was one of a rare breed who ran a mile in under four minutes and a marathon in a tick over 2h 10m.

He and the late John Davies were two of a kind. Neither won Olympic gold, both moved north from the Waikato to Auckland and both switched to coaching after their competitive days were behind them.

They later became co-promoters and rekindled interest in a sport struggling to recapture the glory days of the Peter Snell and John Walker-led eras of the 1960s and '70s with a series of hugely-successful international meets around the country.

Quax was the all-round athlete, be it on the track, road or in cross-country.

While his Olympic 5000m silver and later his world record over the same distance are pitched as highlights of his career, many will remember he ran the anchor leg of the 4 x one mile relay at Mt Smart Stadium in 1972 when he, Kevin Ross, Tony Polhill and Dick Tayler broke the world record running 16m 02.8s - more than 20s faster than Snell, Murray Halberg, Barry Magee and Gary Philpott had run establishing their world record 11 years earlier.

Quax, while never winning a New Zealand cross-country title, was a member of the New Zealand squad that won the teams title at the 1975 world championships.

While never a "my way or the highway" sort of guy, Quax had strong views on how things should be done and had the record to back it.

An elated Dick Quax celebrates his 5000m world record in 1977. Photo / NZ Herald
An elated Dick Quax celebrates his 5000m world record in 1977. Photo / NZ Herald

He wasn't afraid to say it how it was. In 1974, when forced out of the Christchurch Commonwealth Games through injury, he was sent packing from the Games village for taking up an offer to write an article for the Sunday Times in which he predicted mayhem in the 5000m final after the roughhouse tactics in the 10,000m won by Tayler.


In the 1960s and '70s, there was great rivalry between Owairaka and Lynndale as the leading harrier clubs in Auckland but that domination was challenged by University, with Davies and Quax to the forefront.

But any club allegiances were put to one side on Sunday mornings when runners from across the city tackled the famed Waitakeres. A training run perhaps, but with an edge.

Quax was never short of a word. More often than not, it was common sense and from the heart. He was passionate about his sport and encouraged runners of all abilities.

In his book Athletes of the Century - 100 years of New Zealand track and field, historian Peter Heidenstrom rated Halberg as his 5000m "Dream Team" with Quax as his reserve. Few would dare challenge that.

Anyone who ran against, with or was coached by Quax will be saddened by his passing. He was a pathfinder - on and off the track - but one who made people listen, often with a touch of humour.

Sadly the sport, not only in New Zealand, does not have enough people with the same attitude as Quax. Silver was okay but 'I want gold' was very much his mantra in all he did.

Athletic achievements

• Dick Quax won silver at the 1970 Commonwealth Games in the 1500m.

• He was part of the team that set the world 4 x one mile relay record of 16m 02.8s at Mt Smart Stadium in 1972.

• He won silver again at the 1976 Montreal Olympics in the 5000m.

• He set the world 5000m record in 1977 in Stockholm, clocking 13m 12.9s.