Neale Lavis

Athlete Biography

1930 -

Neale Lavis has been called the forgotten man of the Australian equestrian team which made a golden impact on the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome. He came away with a wonderful haul - a gold medal and a silver - but his deeds were overshadowed by the double gold of Laurie Morgan and the heroics of Bill Roycroft. Morgan captained the team, winning individual and team gold in the three-day event on Salad Days and Roycroft bailed himself out of hospital after a bad fall to ride his mount Our Solo in the show-jumping segment, thus enabling his team to qualify for the gold medal. Lavis finished 23.65 points behind Morgan on Mirramooka to win silver in the individual event, with the third-placed rider, Anton Buhler (Switzerland) 34.71 points behind.

By the end of the endurance segment, it seemed Australia might win all three individual medals with Morgan, Lavis and the other member of the team, Brian Crago, leading the field. Unfortunately Crago’s horse broke down at the end of that second day; he was unhurt, but his horse was unable to continue, and the rules would not permit a change of riders. Then came Roycroft’s legendary ride, a faultless round over 12 jumps and the team gold medal. Historian David Wallechinsky has described the Rome endurance course as extremely dangerous. Two horses were killed, and only 35 of 73 entrants completed the three-day competition.

Lavis, competed again in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics without success. He later established a stud farm at which the great racehorses Just a Dash and Strawberry Road were bred.  

Harry Gordon, AOC Historian