1924 - 2007
John Winter became the first Western Australian to win an Olympic gold medal - and the only Olympic high jump champion Australia has ever had - at the London Games in 1948. Tall and rangy, Winter had an aptitude for the big leap from an early age: at Scotch College in Perth, aged 14, he won both the under-16 and open high-jump championships. At 15, he won both titles at the 1940 inter-school sports - clearing 1.85m in the open event. He was working in a bank and competing with the Cottesloe Athletic Club when he turned 18 in 1943, and entered the RAAF. He became a pilot, served in England and trained on bombers - but the war ended before he was able to see action.
Back in Australia, he won the national championships in 1947 and 1948. At the London Games, Winter hitched a lift to Wembley stadium with his coach Jack Metcalfe for the morning session of the high jump and stayed there through the lunch break, eating cake and ice cream for lunch. Emil Zatopek’s gold-medal run in the 10,000 metres, and the crowd’s noisy reaction to it, distracted some high-jump competitors - but not Winter. He cleared 1.98m at his first attempt, then watched in some surprise as highly-fancied rivals failed. Metcalfe later claimed that Winter was the only competitor unaffected by the drama of the Zatopek run and the high-charged atmosphere. Winter differed: “I was never as relaxed as I looked.” Winter won the gold medal at the Auckland Empire Games in 1950. He died in December 2007, aged 83.
Harry Gordon, AOC Historian