Sydney Swans ambassador and Olympic Games gold medallist Ralph Doubell last week launched a biography on his extraordinary rise to glory.
Doubell won gold in the men’s 800 metres at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, equalling the world record and setting new Olympic and Australian benchmarks in the process.
While his intention was to mark the 50-year anniversary of his Mexico City heroics with the release of Ralph Doubell: Do Not Worry, It Is Only Pain, Sudanese-Australian Joseph Deng broke Doubell’s record in Monaco in July.
But Doubell’s story was nonetheless revealed to the world and, as its description puts it, “his story is essential reading for any aspiring athlete and for all with fond memories of a golden era of Australian sport”.
Doubell says the book follows his journey from humble beginnings to Olympic stardom.
“It traces my life from more or less primary school to secondary school, where I had no capacity or record of success in running but always had a feeling I could run fast,” Doubell told sydneyswans.com.au.
“At the end of high school at Melbourne High I started to perform quite well and there was no secret – I was just late in reaching puberty. I started to win and went to Melbourne University, signed up with Franz Stampfl, the coach who coached Roger Bannister, and succeeded from there. There were four or five people who were critical to my success over time.”
Doubell broke away over the final 50 metres of the 1968 Olympics race from star Kenyan Wilson Kiprugut, the event favourite, to win in a time of 1:44.3.
Sir Roger Bannister, the first man to conquer the four-minute mile, described Doubell’s performance as “the finest tactical run I have ever seen” – and results that followed would add weight to his claim.
Doubell’s time would have won the 800 metres at five of the next 10 Olympics.
Doubell, furthermore, is one of just three Australian men in history to have won Olympic gold on the athletics track.
Edwin Flack (1896) and Herb Elliott (1960) are the only other men to have achieved the feat, making Doubell the most recent.
And Doubell’s prodigious talent was not limited to the track, with the Victorian graduating from Harvard Business School and working as an investment banker.
Doubell said his book should strike a chord with readers.
“It’s a feel-good story of a typical kid in my generation where we’re born just after the war,” Doubell said.
“A lot of those kids’ parents made an extra effort to educate them and make sure they had a better life than they had.
“The book is largely centred around life, growing up and the highlight of winning gold at the Olympics.”
While Doubell’s ability on the track took time to blossom, he says his love for the red and white was strong from a young age.
“I’ve always been a South Melbourne supporter,” Doubell said.
“I watched Bobby Skilton play his first game of football, which was against Footscray. My family were Swans supporters and my wife’s father was a Swans supporter, so there’s a long history of following the Swans.”
Doubell’s biography, Ralph Doubell: Do Not Worry, It Is Only Pain, is now available in all good book stores and via the publisher, Stoke Hill Press, at www.stokehillpress.com.