Early in 2006, ABC Grandstand polled its listeners and came up with a list of Australia's top 25 sporting moments. At 25th was the only Commonwealth Games entrant on the list - Andrew Lloyd's remarkable 5000m victory in 1990. I saw the race and then, later in 2006 spoke to Lloyd about it. He was stunned that so many people were inspired by his come from nowhere victory. With the Games approaching again and Lloyd's story being told in a TV ad to promote them, I thought I'd give the story a re-run here.
Lloyd's Lap Of Honour Is Still An Inspiration
Sunday February 26, 2006
Andrew Lloyd tells Tony Harper about Australia's favourite Commonwealth Games moment.
ANDREW Lloyd is still being run off his feet. Now it's the challenge of twin boys nearing their terrible twos that soaks up the energy of the 47-year-old. Sixteen years ago, it was the twin Kenyan terrors of Olympic champion John Ngugi and world record-holder Yobes Ondieki, conquered on the way to one of the most remarkable wins seen on an athletics track.
How Lloyd overcame these champions, and several more besides, in the 5000-metre final at the 1990 Commonwealth Games roused a nation. There remain, much to Lloyd's eternal surprise, many who were inspired by his incredible final lap and lunge for gold.
"I still get people coming up in the street now, saying 'That's the best race I've ever seen'," he says.
ABC radio's Grandstand recently compiled a fans' choice of the 25 most memorable Australian sporting events. Never mind Kieren Perkins's 1500m world record, Cathy Freeman's flag-waving celebrations or the collected works of Ian Thorpe.
The only Commonwealth Games performance considered worthy was Lloyd's race in Auckland.
At first, Lloyd didn't understand the fuss. Sure, it was a performance of great sporting courage. But he had shown greater reserves in recovering from the death of his first wife Lynn in a car accident five years before.
It wasn't until Lloyd watched a replay of his run that he got it.
"I had no idea I was that far back and how hard I came home," he says. "Watching the replay, I thought: 'I wouldn't have put a million dollars on myself to make up that distance'. I was gobsmacked."
It was a strange race of thrills and spills. Ngugi was first down, hitting the track on the second lap but bouncing up and breaking away.
Ondieki tumbled on lap five and that effectively ended his challenge. Lloyd had settled in the third pack at the rear.
"It wasn't until four laps out that we started making inroads on the second group and we went past them two laps out," he says. "With a lap to go, Ngugi had about 40-50 metres on us, which is a fair way."
With 150m left, Lloyd had the rest beaten and Ngugi was moving as if he was jogging in a swimming pool.
"I thought I wasn't going to make it but I squeezed past him a metre before the finish," Lloyd says. "He had no time to respond."
The tiny margin of victory, the passion that went into it and Lloyd's triumph over injury and tragedy made an irresistible package.
"I must have captured a lot of people's imaginations," he says. "But I think the people calling the race on TV made it seem more dramatic - they were falling out of their seats."
Television loves a good redemption tale, and Lloyd's was a beauty. Five years before his defining race, he was driving through Braidwood when his life took a disastrous detour.
"We had a head-on with a truck," he says. "It went around the corner on the wrong side and tore the roof off the car. I was driving and was pinned to the steering wheel.
"My good friend, Nick de Castella [Rob's brother] was sitting next to me and he had minor injuries.
"My wife was sitting behind me and she . . . she didn't make it. That was a real heart-stopper."
Lloyd was born to run, so he put distance between him and the worst day of his life. There were countless kilometres and six knee operations in the next five years.
Yet, with a lap of the final to go, Lloyd remained a million miles from the place he needed to be. Then it came, that lung-busting, majestic lap.
"I felt great relief," he says. "I'd come back from the accident and had to start from scratch. I'd been told I'd never race again. And it brought closure from the accident."
Lloyd, who has a new knee, has slowed down but his love of racing never waned. "I'm still jogging, still doing the odd marathon and still running the City to Surf," he says. "I was in the top 200 last year."
Now he's running after his boys, Jackson and Cooper, at their home at Grays Point. You can hear it down the phone line, that crazy cacophony of a two-year-old boy - times two.
One day, instead of a Wiggles DVD, their old man might put in a tape of his greatest race. They'll wonder how. They'll be gobsmacked.