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Isle of Man at the Commonwealth Games Logo 2018 website 2018 website

TALES FROM THE PAST

Bob Farley
Fond farewells: the author, Bob Farley (centre) and Nick Corkill at the end of the 1986 Games in Edinburgh

Bob Farley: 'A legend with the spanners'

I happened upon Bob Farley in the aptly named Gold Medal pub, just across the road from the athletes’ village at the 1986 Games in Edinburgh.

Nick Corkill, who acted as team mechanic, and I were soon in our stride chatting with the affable Aussie, who was spannerman for the Australian track team that contained several world champions.

He, like all Australians, had some brilliant one-liners, and when he kept ordering another pint of lager to go with the one he hadn’t consumed, Nick and I queried the practise.

‘No good mechanic ever goes anywhere without a spare,’ was the prompt response.

Enough said.

From then on we got on as if we had known each other all our lives. He was good at his job, and while he liked his beer, he was 100 per cent reliable.

When Nick and I encountered a problem with the then revolutionary low profile bikes I had acquired for the 100km team time trial event, Bob was on hand with a somewhat crude but effective solution.

Two of the bikes had to be ‘stretched’ some how to comply with international rules.

At Bob’s urging, he and I took hold of the front forks while Nick and Jersey cycling manager Bruce Le Prey held the rear triangle, and we heaved together in opposite directions.

The resultant force put half a centimetre into the distance between the centre through the front fork drop-outs and the centre through the bottom bracket, sufficient to satisfy the Polish official in charge of checking the dimensions of the bikes.

Bob, who used to make his own frames under the Farleigh banner, pledged his further support for the Manx cyclists at the 1990 Games in Auckland and gave up his holidays to be there … a remarkable gesture.

I didn’t get to go on that occasion, but the team members brought with them a a life-size coloured cardboard cut-out of Nick and I, and Bob duly posed with ‘me’.

He was also on hand to help at the 2006 Games in his native country and was more than happy when Mark Cavendish won the gold medal in the 20km scratch race.

Hopefully he will be around when the team arrives on the Gold Coast in Australia in 2018.

Bob Farley
Great mates: Bob with a cardboard replica of the author at the 1990 Games in Auckland, New Zealand
Golden cheer: (left to right) Gary Hinds, Mike Doyle, manager and coach respectively of the 2006 Games cycling team, share a celebration beer after Mark Cavendish’s winning ride with physiotherapist Isla Scott and Bob Farley

Mark Cavendish: 'I am here to ride with the guys'

Ever forthright, Mark Cavendish insisted in Delhi that the Commonwealth Games remained important to him, four years after he won a gold medal in the scratch race in Melbourne. He said he had no doubts about travelling to India, despite reported problems in the build-up to the Games.

During a press conference he called to try and keep the eager media circus from constantly bothering him. Manx cycling team manager Gary Hinds was the man charged with organising the function, some what out of his real life remit of a firefighter.

‘We’re in India,’ said Cavendish. ‘It’s not a Western country. I think it's quite ignorant to assume we were going to going to be in a Western-style country. I've been to India before on holiday - I knew what it was going to be like.

‘I think it's ignorant not to respect the way those countries are, it is how it is. The reason India got the Games is because it's a developing country, so you can't expect it to be like going to Hong Kong or something.

‘I was always committed. We’ve got a great team from the Isle of Man, a great group of people and I enjoy being with those people. I'm professional and I understand that I need a team to help me succeed, and you have to give back to that team for them to give to you.

‘It doesn't matter what standard that is - whether you ride for Team Sky or whether you ride for the Isle of Man, you ride. You've got a team to work with so I'm here to ride with the guys and they'll give me 100% and I'll give them 100% and hopefully we'll do the Isle of Man proud.’

Cav also chose to highlight the impasse over his bid to renegotiate his contract with his professional team HTC, the American telecoms giant.

Dave Cowell
Leading the way: Prior to his run in the marathon, Dave Cowell raced in the 10000m. This is a screen shot from a video of the race, given to him by his son for a birthday present, of Dave ahead of the legendary Dave Bedford of England, his team-mate Dave Black, and two Kenyans. ‘Only trouble was they were lapping me. The Kenyans controversially kept clipping Bedford's heels, much to his anger. We were billeted next to the Kenyans, and they trained unbelievably hard’

Dave Cowell: 'The marathon man who trained too hard'

The world’s most enthusiastic sportsman. That’s the mantle Dave Cowell bestowed upon himself as a youngster when he moved from the suburbs to the heart of Douglas and began a distinguished athletics career that culminated in his selection for the Commonwealth Games.

After surviving two near-death experiences as a nipper– being hauled out of the river at Tromode and escaping with just singed hair in a bonfire incident, football became a passion at school and also with Gymns and Braddan, running and other sports soon following with similar enthusiasm, and he particularly revelled in the school cross-country epics, with early inspiration provided by his first PE instructor George Southern.

‘Leaping into the river at Port-e-Chee was part of the course – huge fun,’ Dave recalls, as do many of his generation.

His prowess in both sports was later recognised and encouraged by the likes of sports masters Don Beard and Orry Teare, however the single most influential happening in his fledgling running career occurred with the arrival in the Island of 1960 Tokyo Olympic steeplechase silver medallist Maurice Herriott, who undertook a weekend training course that changed Dave’s approach to running.

‘Maurice did “training to the whistle”, and it remains one of the hardest sessions I have ever done, particularly given as I was 15 or 16. Blow the whistle – sprint, blow again – jog, and so on endlessly it seemed. I have done much more arduous sessions, but only when I was fitter.

‘I was going cross-eyed by the end, but hung in. Denis Watts, the AAA coach who was with Maurice, said to my dad “that boy could be a fine runner”.’

Dave says a very defined obsessive personality served him well at middle distance running, but his enthusiasm and love of athletics on the road and track led to a series of injuries that blighted his progress.

‘My biggest problem was always training too hard and not allowing enough recovery time,’ said the affable former PE teacher from his home in Crawley, Sussex.

Now suffering painfully from arthritis in his right knee ‘probably to do with football injuries from by youth’, Dave has nothing but praise for those who helped guide him to the considerable heights he achieved, not least his performance and the Manx marathon record he set at the 1974 Games in Christchurch, New Zealand.

His remarkable time of 2 hours 23 minutes 34 seconds still stands more than 40 years on. It would have put him in the top 15 UK runners and 26th overall in the 2014 London Mararthon.

The record survived a determined assault in 2015 when the Island’s current middle distance star Keith Gerrard, a 2014 Games team member, ran 2-26-27 in the Rotterdam Marathon. However Dave reckons it’s only a matter of time before Gerrard demolishes that time.

Dave wasn’t the only one to set a record on that warm, early summer day in NZ: event winner Ian Thompson (England) set a Games best of 2-09-12 that has survived ten subsequent challenges.

The Games event was one of only three marathons Dave contested, although he ran the distance on three occasions while training. ‘My training mileage increased steadily from 1970 to 1974 as by 1972 I realised I might stand a chance of selection if I worked hard enough.’

His big test came when he tackled the Harlow marathon, a selection race, in October 1973.

‘I finished in 2-34 – I was panned! It was a big marathon for the day – 200 finished and I was 34th.

Selection assured, Dave was then entered for the marathon, 10k, 5k, and steeplechase ‘all these because the Games council and I were not sure which would be best. I had only run three 10ks before the Games and I had never run a “chase”.

‘I chose the 10000m and marathon because they were finals. Even more interestingly, a member of the team management, while in NZ, was adamant that I had to run all of the races I was entered in!’

Dave Cowell
Hero worship: Dave Cowell and his wife Kath at the 2012 London Olympics where he watched his favourite athlete, Kenya’s David Rudisha in the semi-final of the 800m

Dave’s year before the Games was marked by non-injury ‘a very unusual situation for me as I seemed to go from one injury to the next.

‘I never stretched (could just get my hands half-way down my shins when trying to touch my toes), and never did core strengthening work - I have better core strength now from yoga, pilates, and gym work than I did then.

‘I remember the race very well; everyone had been worried about the warm wind that could strike the area but it was OK. I do remember vividly the night before, when I didn’t sleep very well, half thinking how super it would be to see the Manx flag somewhere among the podium flags.

‘My only plan was to pace the race correctly: first 10k was 15-40, 20k in 64-20, and 30k in 99-00. My inexperience shone through then, as I blew up a bit and covered the next 10k in about 38 minutes or so. My half marathon time, about 67-00 minutes or so, remains the fastest half marathon I ever did.

‘I do remember passing Ron Hill, the 1970 Games winner who had a heel injury and did well to finish, and I ran the last five miles desperately wanting to visit the toilet and not just for a minor reason.

After those lonely final miles, Dave crossed the line 13th out of 33 finishers.

‘Amusingly, I was selected for a random drug test. With so few finishers the odds were quite high. Needless to say after a marathon, they had to wait a while.

‘I couldn’t walk very well immediately after the race and my team-mate, walker Derek Harrison, had to help me off the track through the under-track tunnel back to the changing rooms.

‘I had a bath that evening in a block of accommodation opposite our billet – we only had showers in ours. I soaked luxuriously for about an hour. When it came to getting out of the bath, I couldn’t move! I shouted for Steve (Higgins, my room mate) to come and help but he couldn’t hear.

‘Eventually I hauled myself out on to the edge of the bath, rolled sideways, and crashed to the floor. Next day I managed to walk/jog half a mile.’

Dave’s serious running career started in the early seventies after college in Chester, marrying sweetheart Kath, and moving to teach in Sussex, He joined Crawley AC and came under the welcome influence of the legendary coach Tony Weekes-Pearson ‘who was an inspiration to all of us’.

‘We all ran track in the summer and cross-country in the winter with the off road run thrown in – fitting in training around the working day.

‘I ran one more marathon after the Games, but only as a keep fit exercise in later years. Following Christchurch, I was stupid enough not to have a complete break for a few weeks.’

Instead, Dave trained really hard to take advantage of his new levels of fitness but Sciatica struck and affected him badly for two years, recurring whenever he tried to get back to those levels of running.

His final thoughts on the Games: ‘It was an amazing experience and I’m so grateful to the Isle of Man, the 1960s, and the attitude to sport at that time. I grew up kicking, running, hitting. I played for the Junior IoM football team and was voted Young Cricketer of the Year at 16.

‘I generally did what everyone did and I and many others owe huge thanks to the individuals who stood every weekend officiating. Fred Ward, ‘Mr Athletics’, was a superb example.’

Dave Moore: 'Shooting was extremely painful'

Dave Moore

Up with the best: Dave Moore (left) on the podium in Malaysia with winner Stephen Petterson (NZ) and Gavin Van Rhyn (right)

Small-bore marksman David Moore suffered a debilitating back injury prior to winning the 50m prone individual event silver medal in Malaysia.

He was struck by a motorcycle and its rider while on duty at Barregarrow, just before the roads closed during the 1997 TT. He eventually went under the knife in 2001, but not before he won the individual gold and pairs silver at the Island Games in Gotland in 1999.

The following month he claimed the World Police and Fire Games gold in Stockholm (a title he retained two years later at Indianapolis, USA, a bronze following at the 2003 Barcelona event).

After six months of enforced activity following the operation, David attempted to gain selection for the Manchester Games but lost a shoot-out to Phil Glover. While Melbourne Games didn’t figure in his plans, they did inspire him to think about selection for Delhi.

The form and enthusiasm returned and he was appointed team captain, but the bad luck continued and just two weeks before departure he slipped and fell on some stairs. David takes up the story:

‘In the fall, I struck the side of my right hand on the stair edge. I knew straight off that I had broken something; a trip to A&E confirmed it with me being admitted overnight with two broken bones in my hand. A meeting with the surgeon the following morning left me with a decision: they could either splint or pin them, or cast the hand and let them set themselves.

‘The surgeon was of the opinion that if I had them operated on, then I would not be allowed to travel to the Games. So the hand was cast and I started a course of extra treatment in the hyperbaric chamber in an effort to speed up the healing process. I spent two hours every day in the chamber and my thanks goes out to them and everyone involved in the running of the facility.

‘While my hand was cast I was unable to train, but a few days before we left for India, the cast came off and a removable one was fitted. The team left the Island with much excitement and travelled to the UK. On arrival at Heathrow, all the shooting team had to go through the issues of checking in and travelling with firearms.

‘We all eventually got through the process and ended up in the departure lounge. The partial cast on my hand was only really there for support, and while talking with some team-mates, a man ran past obviously late for his flight.

‘I did see him coming but thought nothing of it until the briefcase, on a strap over his shoulder, struck my hand on his way past. The resulting impact was extremely painful and my hand started to swell up, this just 40 minutes before we boarded and there was no time for medical treatment other than to take some painkillers.‘

Dave Moore
Walking wounded: Ruth Cooil treats Dave Moore’s injured hand in Delhi

By the time we arrived in India, my hand had become stiff and painful and I went with the team doctor, Frank Vaughan, to the clinic in the Games village for an assessment. An X-ray confirmed that the already broken bones in my hand had split again where they had started to heal.

‘The head doctor at the clinic, a very nice Indian woman, said the hand should be operated on and the bones pinned, however, this would have required a full cast and would mean that I could not compete. Having put all the time and effort into qualification and travel to the Games, I was not going to let this stop me taking part, so a course of therapy was designed to assist the healing and recovery.

‘I was restricted in the amount of training I could do and every shot loaded or fired was extremely painful.

‘By the time of the men’s matches, I was in reasonable form, but was not where I had been a month before.’

‘Back home, the recovery process continued but one morning in January 2011 I woke up one morning to find that the tendon in the back of my right hand had snapped causing a loss of control of the right ring finger.

‘I had surgery in the UK to re-attach the tendon, during which it was found that the tendon had disappeared up the arm and as well as the surgery to my hand, they opened up my elbow to move some nerves and thread the tendon back down the arm. Whilst the final result has been good, I have lost some of the fine motor skills and control that I used to have.

Following my rehabilitation, I found that I had lost the drive to shoot and was struggling to find a body position that made allowances for the surgery on my elbow. It was at this point that I decided I needed to do something different.

‘At the back end of 2011, along with both my sons, I took an archery course and started competing locally. I now shoot compound archery and won the indoor senior men’s championship. It was a bit of a buzz to have been Island champion in two different sports, not many people can say that.‘

Murray Lambden: 'I decided I needed a purpose'

Murray Lambden

Life-changing: Murray Lambden felt he was not ready for the challenge in 1978 but was on good form four years later in Brisbane

Murray Lambden

Stepping out: Australian, Andrew Jackno, a star of the future (white vest) , trails Murray Lambden who says his big regret was to loose out to the man alongside him, Roger Mills (England), whom he used to watch winning the AAA titles on television

Murray Lambden walked for the Isle of Man at the 1982 Games In Brisbane, Australia, and in 1994, was manager of the athletics squad in Victoria, Canada. Murray’s passion for athletics continues unabated and he is the man behind the extremely comprehensive manxathletics.com website, on which he is a serial and entertaining blogger.

Murray says he will never forget the life-changing opportunity taking part in the Commonwealth Games gave him.

He achieved the qualifying standard for the 30km walk at the 1978 Games in Edmonton, Canada, and was encouraged by some to try and make the team.

However he felt unready for the challenge and thought the qualifying standard was too soft. In any event, three others had the qualifying time and they were all faster than him.

Uncertain for a while of the direction his sporting career was heading after a series of disappointments and the sudden death of his father Murray, then a student, says he finally got it together while walking alone through the streets of Preston while the Commonwealth Games were taking place in Canada.

He recounts: ‘I decided I needed a purpose - I was going to represent the Isle of Man in the 1982 Commonwealth Games.

‘When I finished my studies and returned to the Isle of Man in late June 1979, the training started. At a silly pace.

‘Although pushing my body to the limit, within a month I had broken 5 hours for 50km for the first time despite doing the "double midnight." That meant taking the midnight sailing to Liverpool, hanging around in the city for several hours and taking the first train to Birmingham and on to Coventry. After walking 31 miles, the reverse journey saw me catch the overnight ferry back to Douglas and hitting my bed for the first time in 48 hours by about 6 am.

‘I started to win races, set a British record for 30km in February 1981, and represented Great Britain four times in 1981 and 1982 (Brighton, Valencia, Rome and Bielefeld).

‘1982 was a long hard season with the Commonwealth Games in Brisbane in October. I wanted more than the Commonwealth Games and I tried, but failed, to make the GB team for the European Championships too.

‘Selection for the Commonwealth Games was by that time a formality but there was a time at the end of August when I was so exhausted that I almost withdrew.

‘I am so glad that I didn't. We had more than two weeks between arrival in Australia and my event and I got right back into my stride, literally. Every other day, on my hard day and his easy day, I trained with the man who won the event, Welshman Steve Barry.

‘On a couple of occasions Graham Young joined us and we were photographed by the press with me pretending I was beating Steve for the title!

‘I certainly didn't do everything perfectly. Although I continued to train hard I ate too much and had a few drinks too. It was the first time I had chips for breakfast! There was so much food. I would have a light breakfast before training and then a full version when I got back. Rob Elliott, the Guernsey walker, joined me a few times on those full breakfasts.

‘It was on the day of the race that I realised that, even though there wasn't the depth of quality that there had been in some of my internationals, there was more pressure. The team manager produced cards and telexes (does anyone remember them?) for me on the day of the race.

‘On the start line at 7 am on 7 October it struck me that people back home were trying to follow me from the other side of the world. ‘It wasn't the highlight of my long friendship with Graham Young. Although we shared a room (with Robbie Lambie too) he was quite open that his main objective was to beat me.

‘A walker from another country, who had been based in Britain for a couple of years, adopted different tactics to his normal blast from the gun. He passed me on the turn at half distance and said: "I told you you should start slower in this heat".

‘I said nothing when I re-passed him 10km later. One of the English walkers, Paul Blagg, who was to break 4 hours for 50km, was never on the pace.

‘In the photo (by my mother) I am ahead of a young Australian, Andrew Jackno, who became a star walker in the years ahead. But my regret was to loose out to the man I am alongside, Roger Mills, who I used to watch winning the AAA titles on television.

‘I am sure that the people who finished behind me thought that they could have beaten me "if only." But I was sure that I could have done better. I had enough mental toughness to handle a fair amount of pressure but I did wonder if Roger's reputation got the better of me.

‘In the days following the 30km in Brisbane, I made another decision as big as in Preston in 1978. I was going to make the team for the 1984 Olympics. I failed and less than a year after that I made the third big decision to affect my race walking.

‘The heavy mileage, which was not matched by a frame to support it, and much less by the capability to work on my weaknesses, saw me retire.

‘The Commonwealth Games are no longer a part of my life. It was with a heavy heart that I passed on the ticket lottery that was going to include so many people who don't even know the length of the track, but I hope that those competing in future Games will still be drawn by the buzz and write about their experiences in later life.’