Champion runner Anne Audain claims her career was almost ruined by a sexual advance from her first coach, Gordon Pirie.

The claim comes in Audain's just published autobiography, Uncommon Heart. She says that at 16 she was propositioned by a 40-year-old Pirie and he made her life hell when she spurned his advances.

The book was released in the United States last month but is unavailable here.


Audain writes that Pirie, a former top British Olympic runner, propositioned her after stopping for lunch on the way to a race.

"What he had in mind was a sexual relationship. He said I was an attractive girl, he had been good to me and basically I owed him," she claims in a chapter called "Gordon's Gauntlet."

It was 1972. Audain was a schoolgirl and Pirie a married man.

Audain was one of New Zealand's leading athletes during the 80s.

She won gold and silver medals at the Commonwealth Games, broke the world record for the 5000m, qualified for six Olympics, and was one of the first women to turn professional.

Speaking to NewstalkZB host Murray Deaker, she said that after she had spurned Pirie he made her life hell.

"I was raised to respect my elders and at that time I called him Mr Pirie.

"To have that kind of pressure put on when I knew that that was so terribly wrong was so very difficult because I certainly loved to run and this was my coach.

"I was fearful of the fact that if I didn't handle it correctly it would certainly affect my future in running ... I certainly rejected him, but from that moment on our personal relationship changed ... He tried to make my life hell."

Audain remained with the coach until 1980 when she returned from a trip to Norway and never spoke to him again.

Audain's claim is supported by New Zealand Olympic middle-distance runner Don Smith, who knew Pirie.

"Gordon was utterly mad, but a sweet man. The claims are almost certainly true. Of course he would have done that. It was all very sad."

Smith said such incidents played a major part in the breakup of Pirie's marriage in the mid-70s.

Gordon Pirie died in 1991.