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September 2021

Bob Joyce stood in the middle of the MCG jpeg
Bob Joyce at the MCG for the Tokyo Olympics hurdles.

Photo from 1954 hurdles race jpeg

Bob Joyce on the way to his 1956 Olympic Games.

Imagine fund returns Olympian to the MCG

Mercy Place aged care resident Bob Joyce watched heats of the Tokyo Olympics’ hurdles from the Melbourne Cricket Ground arena – 65 years after running in the 100 metre hurdles event at the 1956 Games.

As a 20-year-old, Mr Joyce was the fastest Australian qualifier at the national trials a few months before the games but, due to the might of the American runners, he did not make it through to the Olympic finals.

Still, he has amazing memories.

As well as competing in the heats of the Olympics, he is immortalised as one of a select group of Australians who marched on to the G on November 27 before 103,000 spectators for the opening ceremony.

Standing on what was then the old-styled red cinder hurdles track, Mr Joyce said ‘winning was everything’ but he was still immensely proud of his selection in the Australian team.

In recent years, staff at Mercy Place Colac have heard Mr Joyce, now aged 85, speak often about returning to the scene of what is one of his great memories.

His visit to Australia’s iconic sports arena during the Tokyo games was made possible by the Mercy Health Foundation Imagine Fund, which enables aged care residents to fulfil a dream and tick off that one late-in-life ‘bucket list’ item.

The philanthropic arm of Mercy Health strives to raise awareness and funding for areas such as pregnancy research and also assists with the purchase of infrastructure in areas such as neonatal intensive care and special care nurseries for premature and unwell babies.

The initiative also enabled Mr Joyce to be chauffeur-driven to the MCG.

A limousine was driven into the stadium underground and was given special permission to park on the players’ ramp, which provided easy access onto the ground.

Earlier, Mr Joyce had received a joyous farewell from staff and residents at Mercy Place Colac who formed a guard of honour, cheering and waving flags as he headed off to Melbourne.

Mercy Health Foundation general manager Julie Owens said it was a wonderful sight to see Mr Joyce beaming and proudly holding court before media on the hallowed turf.

‘The Imagine Fund is an opportunity to revive a special memory in an aged care resident’s life and Bob’s story is obviously topical, revealing and exciting.’

The MCG was also delighted to host Mr Joyce and used both its major scoreboards to generate signage which said ‘Welcome James ‘Bob’ Joyce. 1956 Olympian, 110m hurdles’.

As a schoolboy, Mr Joyce was a promising footballer and it was near the end of the 1955 school footy season and his last year at school that he received a phone call from the legendary John Landy – the former Governor of Victoria and the second man in the world to break the four-minute mile – who suggested he seriously turn his hand to athletics.

Within a short time, Mr Joyce had not only joined the Geelong Guild Athletic Club but he was winning state and national events which ensured his selection in the Olympic team.