Hundreds remember Spence

2011-01-06 00:00

HUNDREDS of people turned out for the memorial service of one South Africa’s greatest athletes, who was the last South African to win an Olympic medal in Rome before the country was banned from participating in all international sports in the 1960s.

Malcom Spence’s memorial service was held at the Presbyterian Church in Howick yesterday.

Spence was born in Johannesburg in September 4, 1937, and grew up KwaZulu-Natal. He went to school in Greytown before moving back to Johannesburg.

He captained South Africa for the 1956 Summer Olympics held in Melbourne, Australia and finished sixth in the 400 metres. He also represented his country in the 400 metres in the 1960 Summer Olympics, and finished third in a race he ran with an Achilles tendon injury on painkillers and came close to breaking the world record, according to his son, Dave.

“My father was nominated by the BBC as one of 100 greatest sprint racers of all times in the 1960 Summer Olympics,” said Dave.

Dave said his father also participated in the Commonwealth Games and won a gold medal there. “He was a very humorous man who had unbelievable courage. He was also very humble and willing to help those who were in need.”

He said his father would always say that he was a star athlete only when he was running, but off the pitch he was just a normal person.

Spence spent his final days in Howick. He died last week aged 74. He is survived by his wife Naomi, three daughters and son.

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