Monday, November 25, 2013

Vol. 3 No. 73 Franz Stampfl Remembered

   Franz Stampfl has  been inducted into the Athletics Australia Hall of Fame.
                                   Franz Stampfl  (1913-1995)
John Bork and Richard Mach (Western Michigan University teammates)   recently brought the following article to our attention.  The Athletics Australia group has chosen to honor Franz Stampfl with membership in their Hall of Fame, eighteen years after his passing.  This is also the 100th anniversary of his birth in 1913.  Additional and informative reading on Franz Stampfl can be found on John Cobley's website 
Stampfl was an outspoken man with tremendous talent as a coach and mentor having played a significant roll in the first four minute mile in 1954.  He mentored and encouraged all three runners in that race,  Roger Bannister, Chris Chataway and Chris Brasher (Olympic gold medallist in the steeplechase in 1956).   He went on to coach and advise many Australian athletes throughout his career including Ralph Doubell, 1968 800 meter gold medallist. 

As a high school runner in the late 1950's, I was lured to  his book Stampfl on Running. It was the definitive book on interval training available to me.  I must have checked it out of the library 20 times. 
Born in Austria, he was studying fine art in England at the beginning of WWII, was interned, then deported, as an enemy alien,  first to Canada, but his ship was sunk on the way.  He survived and was returned to England, and then re-deported to Australia.  He returned once more to England after the war and took up coaching that led to his association with Bannister, Chataway, and Brasher.  He was then recruited to be director of athletics at Melbourne University.   Sadly his life took a rough turn when he was rendered a quadriplegic after an auto accident in 1980, but he was able to continue his work for a number of years.  He passed away in 1995.    George Brose
 This is the link to John Cobley's chapter on Stampfl

From:  Australia Athletics website


Stampfl to enter Hall

Legendary Australian coach Franz Stampfl (1913-1995), whose many career highlights included mentoring Roger Bannister to the first ever sub four-minute mile and Ralph Doubell to the 800m gold medal at the 1968 Mexico Olympic Games, has today been inducted into the Athletics Australia Hall of Fame.

Stampfl, who was born in Vienna but immigrated to Australia in 1955 after having previously been interned in New South Wales during the Second World War, becomes the 35th person inducted.

Athletics Australia's Special Awards Committee recently approved Stampfl’s induction and his family was today presented with his official Hall of Fame citation at a celebration of the recent 100th anniversary of the great coach’s birth held for his family and friends at the home of former charge Doubell in Melbourne.

The full citation for Stampfl’s induction is listed below.

The Athletics Australia Hall of Fame was established in 2000 to recognise the outstanding achievements of Australia's truly great athletes from the sport’s rich history of success dating back over 100 years. At the discretion of Athletics Australia's Special Awards Committee, an induction into the Hall of Fame takes place to recognise the greats of the sport.

Stampfl joins Doubell as well as names like Catherine Freeman, Herb Elliott, Betty Cuthbert, Raelene Boyle and Robert de Castella as members of the Hall of Fame.

Brasher, Bannister, Stampfl, Chataway after the first 4 minute mile.

FRANZ STAMPFL MBE (18 Nov 1913 – 19 Mar 1995)

Franz Stampfl was born in Vienna in 1913 and in his early years studied art. He also had some success as a skier and javelin thrower.

In 1937 he left Austria and moved to England to pursue his interests in art. At the outbreak of World War II he gained a job coaching athletes in Northern Ireland.  In 1940 he taught physical education at Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School but by June of that year he was interned as an enemy alien and shipped to Canada.

During the voyage to Canada the ship was torpedoed and sank. Franz survived the sinking and the icy waters and was shipped back to England where he was again interned before being sent to Australia. He was placed in an internment camp in Hay, New South Wales and later in Tatura. During his internment he organised various sporting activities within the camps including athletics.

In 1946 Franz moved back to London with his wife Pat whom he had met in Australia to practice as an athletics coach, doing so at various locations including Oxford and Cambridge Universities as well as the John Fisher School.

In 1954 Franz achieved one of his greatest coaching feats when he coached Roger Bannister to the first sub four-minute mile. In that famous race the two pace makers Chris Brasher and Chris Chataway were also coached by Franz. Brasher went onto win the steeplechase gold in the 1956 Olympic Games and become the race director of the London Marathon whilst Chataway emerged as a world record holder and Olympic finalist. Bannister that year won gold at both the European Championships and Commonwealth Games.

In 1955 Franz immigrated to Australia where he became director of athletics at Melbourne University. Franz introduced his interval training to the many athletes he coached there over the years - resulting in great success for many of them. His training methods became legendary for their toughness - many hard repetitions with short recoveries.

His most famous pupil was Ralph Doubell who won gold in the 800 metres at the Mexico Olympics in 1968 - equalling the world record, a mark that remains the Australian national record in 2013.

Franz did not only train middle distance runners - also coaching sprinters, hurdlers, jumpers and throwers. Many of his athletes went on to represent Australia at the Olympic and Commonwealth Games, Pacific Conference Games, World Championships and World Cup. He had a magnificent eye for both talent and technical improvement, it often being said of him that he had a natural ability to see things in slow motion.

Some of his higher achieving athletes for all or significant parts of their careers included Hec Hogan, Tony Sneazwell, Gael Mulhall, Peter Bourke, Ken Roche, John Higham, Merv Lincoln, Alan Crawley, Petra Rivers, Sue Howland, Pam Matthews, Bruce Field, Judy and Lawrie Peckham and Bill and Erica Hooker – but there were many more. At the 1968 Nationals in Sydney, the Victorian male athletes he coached would have won the interstate points trophy – the Richard Coombes Shield in their own right.

But he did not work only with the elite. His squad often grew to 50 or more ‘regulars’, and required his attendance at training from 10:00am until well after normal working hours had ceased. The size of his team led to both group and individual sessions, with even the burliest of throwers often engaged in Sunday morning time trials.

And he was an early advocate for participation and was perhaps also Melbourne’s first ‘personal traine’, initiating the Como Park Joggers at 6.00am every weekday, a concept which drew people from all walks of life to running for fitness, including come of the city’s most affluent and successful in business. Some even ended up at the Melbourne University track doing ‘reps’.

International athletes came to Australia for his tutelage and it was not unusual for AFL players or test cricketers to seek out his guidance.

Tragically Franz was seriously injured in a car accident in 1980, which left him a quadriplegic. But this did not stop him continuing to coach from his wheelchair and famous office beside the Melbourne University track.

Franz was a very fit man prior to his accident and was a strict disciplinarian. However, he was also a great motivator and was able to get the best out of his athletes. He was a great talker and could do so on many subjects and, from the recollection of some of his athletes, was “always right” - according to himself!

He never lost interest in art and his athletes and others retain many of his works amongst their proudest possessions.

Sadly athletic officialdom never fully embraced him nor recognized his enormous input into the sport. However he was awarded an MBE in 1981.

Franz was a larger than life figure and a legendary coach.


Anonymous said...

Stampfl is to me is the father of hard training and it benefits. All of us owe alot to him. Phil Scott

Sally McLean said...

Hi, it's great that you spoke about Franz Stampfl here on your blog. Just wanted to let you know that the photo you have of him at the head of the Athletics Australia citation is actually of Otto Stampfl, his younger brother, and was taken by our photographer during our interview with Otto in Austria in 2011 for a documentary we are currently filming about Franz. The photographer was Ingo Folie. The documentary website is - in case you or your readers might be interested in knowing more about Franz's story and his athletes.

Best regards,

Sally McLean
A Life Unexpected: The Man Behind The Miracle Mile
Finish Line Films Pty Ltd
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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