The Olympic Spirit – in a lone shade of Red & Blue

July 28, 2021 by
Filed under: NSW Demons, Our history 

Nigel Dawe

Not that I’ve ever thought myself even remotely the philosopher, certainly philosophical, at times; but my favourite philosopher of all time – Friedrich Nietzsche, once said: “The philosopher knows not where to stand if not on the extended wings of all ages.”

And this comment somehow perfectly captures my fascination with historical events and entities like our grand old football club, and the Olympic Games, when it’s all said and done.

My earliest memory is actually the 1980 Moscow Olympics (and that haunting “Moscow, Moscow…” chant of a theme song that perhaps in hindsight, also doubled-up as a ploy to subconsciously convert the rest of the world to Russia’s form of Communism). Having also been born in the Montreal Olympic year of 1976, the Olympic spirit has certainly swept me up in its reaches (not so much these days) but every four years when it rolls around.

That said, one of the most forgotten, uniquely placed, albeit unheralded Olympians, was a former Melbourne Footballer called Corrie Gardiner, and if it wasn’t for him, then Australia could not now claim (as one of only five nations to be able to do so) to have had athletes attend each and every Summer Olympic Games.

To paint a picture of Corrie, then perhaps envisage a dark-haired bolter along the lines of Ed Langdon but with a dapper, Jake Lever moustache. Corrie was actually a wingman in Melbourne’s first VFL premiership-winning team of 1900.

Of the 18 games the side played that year, Gardiner featured in 16 of them, not to mention the Grand Final, that Melbourne won by 4 points, against the overwhelming favourites – Fitzroy (who actually had their horse carriages emblazoned with ‘Premiers 1900’ waiting outside the ground before the game had even commenced!)

In 1904, the Olympic Games were held in the American city of St Louis, for which our Corrie Gardiner was the sole athlete to represent Australia (there is a second representative who is often mentioned, but he was quick to head straight home without even kitting up when he caught sight of how athletes were actually staying in tents in a city park!) Thus, it would be an understatement to say the games of ‘04 were a far cry from the razzle and pampered dazzle of our more modern-day Olympic affairs.

Alongside the two Zulu tribesmen who attended the St Louis Games for the marathon, and the 92 ‘foreigners’ (41 of which were from neighbouring Canada) Corrie Gardiner seems to have acquitted himself well, indeed you could say he even showed a true ANZAC spirit, a full decade before there was even such a Gallipoli-forged thing.

And so, as it is with the gleaming essence of the spirit of ANZAC, there is a certain sacred, or undiminishable glory to the ‘give all you’ve got’ hard fought loss; Corrie ended up finishing fourth in the heat of his 110m hurdles event in St Louis and was also unplaced in the long jump.

But long may he be remembered, as the lone combatant of not just the country from Down Under – that never backs away from a fight, but the premiership-winning Melbourne footballer, who single-handedly flew the grand old flag on a truly world stage.

The Melbourne premiership-winning 'Olympian' - Corrie Gardiner


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