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NoteWorthy Flack's - Edwin Harold 'Teddy' Flack
Olympic Champion for Australia - Athens, 1896.

picture from Edwin Harold "Teddy" Flack (5 November 1873 - 10 January 1935) was the first Olympic champion in the 800m and 1500m during the inaugural games in Athens on 1896, the only Australian to compete that year.

Edwin Harold Flack was born in Islington, London, England, the son of Joseph Henry Flack and Marion Smith. He was five years old when his family migrated to Australia. Soon after leaving the Church of England Grammer School in 1892, where he studied Greek History, Edwin became the 'one mile champion' of New South Wales and Victoria. After graduation he joined his father's accountancy firm of Davey, Flack & Co. At the age of 21 he was sent to London to receive further training as an accountant with the firm Price Waterhouse. A keen athlete in Australia, Edwin joined the London Athletic club and set his sights on representing Australia at the 1896 Olympic Games.

Taking a month's holiday from his accountancy job, he travelled to Athens, an uncomfortable six day rail and sea trip during which he was plagued with sea sickness. He stayed at the home of the British Ambassador to Greece. On the opening day of the Games he won his first race, the first heat of the 800m. On the second day he lined up against the American favourite, Arthur Blake, in the 1500m run. Running shoulder to shoulder with Blake in the final straight, Edwin powered ahead near the end to win by more than five metres. Teddy Flack was duly presented with his olive wreath - there were no gold medals in 1896!

The next morning he first took part in the Olympic Tennis tournament, and then, after a quick change and a dash across town, duly collected his second Olympic title and olive wreath in the 800m run. Obviously pumped up with his double victory, Edwin entered himself for the marathon that same afternoon. Despite having not previously tested himself beyond 20km, Edwin was in the lead with four kilometres to go when, it is recorded by Olympic Historians, he began to "wave and sway". The Ambassador's butler, who had faithfully accompanied him throughout the race on a bicycle, left a Greek spectator to care for Edwin while he pedalled off for assistance. Delirious from his exertions, Edwin, in the belief that he was being attacked, rose up and punched the spectator to the ground. He was disqualified and ostracised by the other athletes. The record goes on to say that the butler later found his gentleman at the main stadium being tended to by Prince Nicholas of Greece, who was attempting to revive him with a drink of brandy and egg.

Edwin had less success at the tennis. He lost in the first round of the singles. In the doubles he was paired with an English friend, George Robertson. They reached the semi-finals after a walk-over in the first round, but lost their only match. Although they were placed third due to their semi-final appearance, awards for third places were not yet awarded in 1896.

Edwin returned to Australia and the family firm in 1898 and lived on a property near Berwick in Victoria. He never competed for Australia again.

According to his birth certificate, Edwin Harold Flack was born on 5 Nov 1873 at 52 Midway Road, the son of Joseph Henry Flack, Accountant, and Marian Flack formerly Smith. His parents were married on 22 July 1871 in St Mary's, Newington, Surrey: Joseph Henry Flack , aged 24, bachelor, Accountant of Dalston, son of Joseph Flack, Gentleman, and Marian Smith, aged 25, spinster of Penrose Street, daughter of John Smith (deceased) Gentleman.

Joseph Henry Flack was born on 4 June 1847 in Peckham, Camberwell, Surrey, the son of Joseph Flack, Gentleman, and Caroline Flack formerly Hayward. Caroline was Joseph's second wife, the details from their marriage certificate are:

8 July 1846 St Mary Magdalene, Peckham, Surrey: Joseph Flack, full age, Widower, grocer, Peckham, son of John Flack Gentleman, and Caroline Hayward, full age, spinster, Peckham, daughter of George Hayward farmer.

It is early days yet, but at present that is all I know of Teddy's ancestors - if anybody has further details on these Flacks of Surrey I would be most grateful to hear from you.

The information on Teddy Flack's Olympic exploits comes from Wikipedia and The Age. I am grateful to Janet and Peter Ellis and Les Flack, for providing me with copies of the birth and marriage certificate relating to Teddy's ancestors. One day we might yet find the link between Teddy Flack and their own Flack family!

article written by Denise Carr


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