THERE were moments when Kingsley Curtis could feel the pressure at the most intense time in a race – the start.
Mostly it is just routine. He relaxes and lets the athletes do their jobs, constantly checking to make sure all hands are behind lines steady and still.
He has started races on some of the biggest stages: the 2000 Sydney Paralympic Games, Olympic and Commonwealth Games selection, world cup events, world junior championships and almost three decades of Victorian championship meets. Most events he also doubled as a field official.
Curtis has been endorsed for Athletics Victoria life membership and awaits presentation recognising more than 60 years involvement as an athlete, official and administrator.
The Wendouree Athletics Club member said his progression from competitor to official just evolved and he still loved every moment.
“I was 17 when I joined. A friend took me along and I kept going and going long after he had finished, mainly competing in distance running,” Curtis said.
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There is an art to starting a race. The key is all in how long to leave athletes lingering on the blocks, balancing a fine-line between building crowd anticipation and unsettling athletes.
Curtis began as a starter’s assistant, checking blocks, before progressing to the starter’s gun and meeting exams and coaching scrutiny to reach top grading and officiate bigger meets.
“The senior grades are always easier to start than those couple of grades lower because they’re like a machine those top athletes – when they come up on their marks, they’re just waiting for that gun,” Curtis said.
After more than 40 years as an athletics official, Curtis said he had seen that many athletes in competition it was hard to pick a favourite big name.
Ballarat’s own Australian representatives Gerrard Keating, Tony Benson, Collis Birmingham and Victoria Mitchell are among his stand-outs. He watched each progress from club level.
Cathy Freeman also made an impression.
“I started Cathy in her first race back from the Sydney Olympics win,” Curtis said.
“I just remember she had very long legs - I couldn’t get over them.”
What Curtis enjoyed most was officiating country championships and the camaraderie that came with competing against the like of Bendigo, La Trobe and Geelong.
He still works Ballarat cross country events and the track season for Ballarat Regional Athletics Centre.
A move to officiating field events, particularly at national level, allows Curtis a chance to really relish being part of athletics meets.
“I quite love just being out there,” Curtis said.
Curtis is a life member at Wendouree where he also served as president, vice-president and treasurer for a combined 26 years.
Curtis is also life member of BRAC and the Ballarat District Soccer Association, having also served on the board as as an assistant referee, running the side lines.
The colourful people he has met in athletics and soccer have kept Curtis involved in sport - as has the prospect of watching many more sporting contests unfold.