A well-known athlete and teacher has been remembered as a caring and inspirational figure.
A well-known athlete and teacher has been remembered as a caring and inspirational figure.

Tributes flow for champion athlete

A CHAMPION athlete and teacher has been remembered as a caring and inspirational figure.

Michael McAvoy, known as Mike, a record-holding Geelong identity who won many state and national athletics titles, died aged 85 on June 19.

Mr McAvoy was born on July 15, 1934, in Wood Green, North London.

He spent time in air raid shelters in the London Underground during World War II, before being evacuated, like many other children, to be fostered outside the city.

After returning to London, he participated in many sports at a young man, including running, soccer and cycling.

He enlisted for British National Service with the RAF, and served as a signalman in Kenya during the Mau Mau Uprising from 1953-54.

Mike McAvoy as a young man. Picture: Supplied
Mike McAvoy as a young man. Picture: Supplied


An avid runner, it was his interest in athletics that helped bring Mr McAvoy to Australia.

He aimed to compete in the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games but failed to qualify, in an era of outstanding British talent.

But Mr McAvoy and two mates decided to travel to Australia to watch the Olympics anyway.

They hitch hiked by ship, travelling through the Middle East, India and Sri Lanka.

They were left stranded in Sri Lanka due to a lack of ships passing through when a major canal closed, and spent time working as extras on the movie The Bridge On The River Kwai.

The trio eventually arrived in Perth weeks after the Olympics had finished in Melbourne.

Mr McAvoy decided he wanted to create a future in Australia as a teacher, and went on to teach at primary schools across the region, including in Beech Forest, Geelong, Little River and Lara, during a career that lasted more than three decades.

A record-setting runner, Mr McAvoy continued to run into his 80s.

He has been described as inspirational at Landy Field, both as an open class and veteran runner representing Geelong at state and national levels.

A supporter of start-up efforts, including the Geelong Cross Country Club and the Geelong Masters, Mr McAvoy, inspired many of his local students to embrace running.

He loved staying at youth hotels, even well into his 70s, and meeting fit, active people of all ages from around the world.

He was also a keen gardener and supporter of humanitarian causes.

Mr McAvoy is survived by two adult daughters, Jane and Diane.

He lived with heart condition atrial fibrillation, and survived a frontal lobe stroke about four years ago, and prostate cancer.

Mr McAvoy was diagnosed with vascular dementia last year, and dealt with untreatable circulation issues, including in his much-used feet.

His daughter Jane, in a eulogy, said people described her dad as nearly always smiling.

Ms McAvoy said she was glad her father had a peaceful end to his life.

He spent his final months at Estia Health at Bannockburn.

"I doubt that you will be resting in peace though," she said.

"You will be doing running drills "upstairs" trying out your new feet."




Originally published as Tributes flow for champion athlete