Untold story of Lahti: Perkins kept his mourning private
August 5 dawned bright in Lahti, Finland, tinged with anticipation. The WMA General Assembly was meeting on a rest day at the World Masters Athletics Championships to elect a new president and other officers. Stan Perkins, running against Ohio’s Rex Harvey, won the presidency by one vote, and smiled as he shook hands with Rex. But amid the celebration was an unseen darkness: Stan’s heart was hurting. Thousands of miles away — back home in Australia — his sister’s funeral was being held. I learned of this tragic subtext as I left Lahti, but haven’t shared details until now. I wrote Stan to confirm the story, and he replied in late August. I still don’t know his sister’s name. Haven’t seen an online obituary either. A month after the moment, here’s all I know.
Stan wrote me on August 25 that “the death of my sister was a great shock to me and totally unexpected. She was some 13 years older than me and not in the best of health but certainly her death was the last thing I would have anticipated.”
She died on the 31st July. I considered travelling back to Australia for the funeral and to be with our family, but considering the time it would have taken to make the journey and the distance involved, and after much discussion with my brother and my sister’s children, it was decided I should stay in Lahti.
I wrote and forwarded my memories of my sister and these were read at the funeral. My sister and I were the only two sporting entities amongst my six brothers and sisters. She has been an excellent runner and jumper in her school years but on leaving school she had been required to work on the family farm and her athletics ended at that time.
However she was a great encouragement to me and in fact was the only member of my family that ever saw me compete in sport, so she was special to me.
She followed my development in several sports where I represented my state and then took great interest in my progress in sports administration. Her funeral was the day of the General Assembly and it was tough keeping it all together during the day.
I made two phone calls during the breaks to check how things were going and spoke with family. I know she would have been extremely proud of my election win and in a way I felt as though I had honored her memory by winning.
Stan thanked me my condolences and concluded with this:
I did not advise any other than fellow Council members of my situation as I did not want to influence matters at all in the voting in the election and certainly did not want any sympathetic expressions that may have distracted me from my cause.
A few other things I learned about the election:
Remember the mystery of two missing voters — how 123 ballots were cast in the presidential election but 125 were cast just minutes later in another election? WMA Secretary Winston Thomas told me a few days later that, in fact, the two missing voters weren’t latecomers — they had been present throughout but opted to abstain from the presidential vote.
I also learned that Rex’s camp was counting on two promised votes from a Latin American country — votes that didn’t help because the pair didn’t show for the General Assembly.
Thus Rex lost to Stan 62-61 because two delegates didn’t bother to show.
Votes don’t matter?
Don’t tell that to Rex.