Harry Summers couldn’t believe he was awarded an OAM for his service to athletics, and thankfully daughter Sandra has kept all his sporting medals and memorabilia from throughout his life.

By Nick Sinis

PHILLIP Island resident Harry Summers has received a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) under the Queen’s Birthday 2021 Honours List for his dedication to race walking and athletics.

Harry has spent a lifetime competing in race walking, winning numerous championships and medals, as well as coaching almost 100 athletes.
Some his former pupils include well-known Australian representatives such as Dominic McGrath, Gabrielle Blythe, Bill Dyer, Wendy Muldoon, Craig Brill and Kevin Lowden.

He has also coached and managed world junior teams, world championships and world tours.

Harry competed in junior, senior and master’s athletics from 1954 to 2016, and was even an avid competitor in cycling and cross-country skiing.

His own athletic achievements included the 1981 World Veterans Championships in New Zealand (45-plus age group), where he won gold (5000-metre walk) and silver (20km road).

Harry said it was an honour to receive an OAM. He was totally surprised.

“It was unexpected and great, I’m really proud of that,” he said.

His athletic journey initially started in Preston before moving to Box Hill Athletic Club, where he would remain for most of his career and become president and life member.

“It all started from trying to play football,” he said.

“The coach was the chief of Preston Athletics and he suggested that I wasn’t a good footballer, but that maybe I could come down and try athletics.”

Daughter Sandra Van Brummelen and sisters couldn’t be prouder of their father, and Sandra has made sure to keep all his achievements including dozens of medals, awards, photographs and competition attire.

“We used to always say when we were growing up that the reason he walked so far, was he would be training and come home and hear all the screaming
kids in the house, and just keep going,” she said.

“He used to take teams around the world to compete.

“He stayed extremely fit right up until his hip went from all the walking.”

Harry was also president of Race Walk Australia and Victorian Race Walking Club.

“From as young as I can remember he was always being involved constantly, every weekend at athletics and orientating as well,” she said.

“He didn’t have any involvement in any sport without fully committing to the role of helping the club and being 100 per cent there.”

To add to his long list of accomplishments, Harry was
previously awarded the Australian Sports Medal in 2000, and Life Membership for Athletics Australia in 2008.

Harry also officiated the 1956 and 2000 Olympic Games, as well as Melbourne Commonwealth Games and many Australian, Victorian and Veteran

Championships between the years of 1966 to 2016.

He even managed the first walk team to visit China in 1985, comprising of Sally Pierson, Kerry Saxby and Anne Ryan.

While enjoying retirement now, Harry has continued to contribute to his community, playing piano at retirement villages and is an organist for Masonic Lodges throughout East Gippsland.