Gold standard evening for Murray Rose27 November 2013
AOC: Imagine a room where you have Ian Thorpe and Herb Elliot deep in conversation; a table away three budding young 1500m swimmers are hanging on to Grant Hackett’s every word; Dawn Fraser is on the other side of the room reminiscing with teammates John Konrads and Sandra Morgan-Beavis; and London 2012 K4 gold medallist David Smith is down the back getting his Murray Rose book signed by 1956 and 1960 swim team captain John Devitt.
These reveries turned into reality last night at the Murray Rose Tribute Dinner hosted by Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) President John Coates at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney.
It was an event created to honour four-time Olympic Champion Rose, who passed away in April 2012. But like the life of the swimmer-turned-actor from Redleaf, it evolved into so much more.
“The legacy of Murray Rose goes beyond sport in many ways – it is part of the DNA of this country. The man left his imprint in the Australian psyche,” said America’s Cup winning skipper and Swimming Australia President, John Bertrand.
As emcee Ian Thorpe noted: “I see a quality in Murray that I feel transcends time.”
“I truly think that Murray was a pioneer in sport in this country. He really was able to set a standard that we can all aspire to,” Thorpe said.
“He was a gentleman. He had the qualities that make the very greatest Olympians and they’re qualities that aren’t just good for sport. These are human qualities that we all should aspire to.”
Thorpe also revealed how Rose would often talk to him about strategies in 400m freestyle over lunch – “he challenged me.”
Reflections on Rose’s incredible life aside, the night also produced the rarest of opportunities for Olympians across generations to connect. Among the 160 guests were 31 Olympians stemming from Melbourne 1956 to London 2012, with some 67 medals between them.
“I feel like I’m a tadpole in the ocean at the moment swimming amongst all of this fame,” said London 2012 K4 kayak gold medallist David Smith.
“It’s a great experience to see all of the stalwarts for the Olympic Games, especially from the swimming background considering that I’ve looked up to the swimmers my entire life – they helped me become who I am as an Olympian,” he said.
In a nod to Rose’s affect on their own careers, 1500m freestyle legends John Konrads, Daniel Kowalski and Grant Hackett spent time with young up-and-comers in Australia’s illustrious 1500m distance - Mack Horton, Jordan Harrison and Matt Levings.
“It was amazing meeting Olympians that you only really hear about and you don’t dream of meeting,” Harrison said.
“I really enjoyed spending time with Grant Hackett- I’ve never really sat down and talked to him about the 1500m,” the 18-year-old said.
“It is an honour to meet one Olympian, to have a room full of Olympians was overwhelming,” Horton added.
1500m track and field gold medallist Herb Elliot reflected on the footage of Rose aired during the night and on the recent episodes of Australian Story.
“He (Murray) doesn’t actually talk about beating other people. He talks about the sense of himself in the water and actually bettering himself through what he is trying to do in the water – I think he had a very good attitude to what it’s all about.”
Surrounded by many teammates from her 1956 and 1960 Olympic campaigns with Rose, Dawn Fraser acknowledged it was Murray’s friendship that she will remember the most.
“It just goes to show them that we still care for Murray even though he is not here,” she said of her illustrious company at the dinner.
Moved and empowered by all of the support in the room, Jodi Rose thanked AOC President John Coates for an unforgettable evening.
“How could I be alone with what I feel from this evening? I can take all of this with me from now on,” she said.