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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

'He was the elder statesman of SA endurance running' - Tributes pour in for the late Ian Harries

One of the country's most decorated coaches, Ian Harries has taken his last breath. Following a lengthy illness which saw him spend the last 27 days in ICU, Harries suffered cardiac arrest and passed away at 9pm on Saturday 9 September. Born in Wales in 1944, Harries will be remembered by most South Africans for his contribution to the middle distances. In particular, his relationship with the late World Championship gold medalist Mbulaeni Mulaudzi whom he coached to a silver medal in the 800m at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. Fellow coach, statistician and author Richard Mayer says Harries has left an indelible mark on South African athletics.

"He was the elder statesman of South African endurance running and was always working on projects to advance distance running in South Africa. He was deeply knowledgeable about local and international athletics and was a coach of international stature as evidenced by his success with Mbulaeni Mulaudzi. He gave his heart and soul to coaching and his coaching biography, Running from the Heart, could have been entitled Coaching from the Heart," said Mayer.

After over 50 years as a coach, the legendary Ian Harries has passed away at the age of 79. Photo Credit: Supplied.

Having first made an impact as a coach in Southern Africa in Zimbabwe during the 1970's and 1980's, Harries later moved to Vanderbijlpark. Living in the Emfuleni Municipality on the banks of the Vaal River, the 79-year-old spent his later years guiding and mentoring other coaches. Harries had been working with the likes of like Norman Dlomo (Marathon Olympian), Coach Morena Stix Tsotetsi (800m and 1500m), and Coach Larry Beukes (Sprint), sharing the knowledge he had acquired over more than five decades of coaching. He was also coaching the up and coming 800m and 1500m athletes at Dimathi Athletics Club based at the Isak Steyl Stadium at the Vaal University of Technology. Dlomo says Harries will be sorely missed.

" is very hard," said Dlomo who is also the founder of Dimathi Athletics Club. "The man was like the father to all Dimathi Coaches and athletes. But we had to accept his passing because we know he had so many operations over passed few years and his ageing body could not take it anymore. We have lost a man who was a wealth of knowledge. But at least he wrote a book, so his knowledge didn't go with him."

Harries is pictured here in conversation with one of his former athletes Tebogo Masehla who also hails form the Vaal. Photo credit: Tebogo Masehla.

His latest book entitled Running From The Heart - My Personal Coaching Memoir is a 426 page volume of experiences gathered over a coaching career which started back in June of 1967. The man who began coaching after achieving athletics success as a schoolboy in Malawi in the 400m, 800m and Triple Jump, coached over 30 international athletes including numerous Olympians such as John Morapedi. His contribution to athletics was celebrated around the world from the United Kingdom to Zimbabwe and Finland to New Zealand. Mayer believes that the best way to honour Harries' memory is put his knowledge into practice in South African athletics.

"He was internationally recognized and had good relations with such world renowned figures and coaches as Frank Horwill, Frank Dick and Norman Brook. As a friend of Ian's, I think we will honour his legacy best by ensuring that we benefit from his knowledge and that of coaches like him. For example Norman Brook, who lives in the Cape can be integrated into South African athletics structures to work towards the kind of international best practice towards which Ian strived in all his contribution to South African and Zimbabwean athletics."

For more on Harries work click HERE.

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