WISE athletes and coaches, the ones who truly care about more than their own game, say it is important to remember where you have come from.
This is a running theme often picked up by this columnist in speaking with those who reach the highest levels but still feel drawn to invest in the grassroots here in Ballarat however they can.
This is why the death of Olympian John Vernon late last week will leave such a gaping hole in the region's sporting landscape.
Vernon, a high jumper, and boxer Bobby Bath are Ballarat's original Olympians - the first from this city to reach the world's greatest sporting stage.
The pair pioneered a path for what is an incredibly rich Olympic history, particularly for a regional city.
This includes shooter Russell Mark, who fired his first shot at Sebastopol shooting range in 1977.
Mark went on to compete in six Olympic Games - only equestrian rider Andrew Hoy has competed in more Summer Games for Australia.
This also includes Olympic gold medallist Jared Tallent who grew up race walking near his family farm in Dean.
In 2008, Tallent became the first Australian to win two athletic medals in the same Games since 1972 and the first Australian male to do so in 102 years. Tallent, outspoken on drug cheats tainting his discipline, was awarded his 2012 London gold medal four years later after a Court of Arbitration ruling.
Vernon started jumping as a pupil at Pleasant Street Primary School. A high jump stand and bar were the only athletic equipment at the school - its then-sparse sporting facilities included a cricket pitch and a couple of footballs.
He would long tell the story of learning to jump on the school's uncut grass well before reaching the qualifying rounds at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. One of the nation's best high jumpers in the early 1950s, Vernon made the qualifying jump for the 1952 Helsinki Games but missed team selection.
In a dramatic period of technique and footwork change, Vernon enjoyed to recall the moves from the scissor kicks, to the roll and the Fosbury flop. His personal best jump was 2.02 metres in 1954 and he loved watching his fellow jumpers strive for far greater heights in the decades that followed.
BELOW:This is one of a pair of shoes worn by Ballarat-born high jumper John Vernon while competing in the 1956 Olympics, and forms part of a small collection of material donated to the City of Ballarat by John and fellow Olympian Robert 'Bob' Bath. 3D Image: courtesy of Digital Heritage Australia
Vernon's sporting experience and passion for the Olympic movement was something he generously shared not just with emerging and elite athletes but this whole city. Just look to the Olympic Rings precinct he helped guide by Lake Wendouree.
Those who knew him best say Vernon always took a keen interest in others, not matter what their sport or ability. Importantly, Vernon always wanted to know how he could best help the region's young athletes in striving to be their best. Ballarat Sportsmen's Club secretary Bruce Valpied said so many youngsters appreciated the fact an old Olympian would take time out to meet them.
To be an Olympian carries great responsibility in promoting fair play and encouraging all to strive to be swifter, higher and stronger. To do so, demands great respect.
This is why we must always remember where our Olympic history stems from.
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