Reggie ‘Reg’ Austin dies at 78; pioneering world-record sprinter

Reg the Hall of Famer.

Reg the Hall of Famer.

Reginald “Reg” Austin, a professional Aussie sprinter who fought to compete in masters track and ended up setting a slew of records and winning many world titles, died Tuesday (June 30), say Australian sources including WMA President Stan Perkins. He was 78. Reggie was among a small number of athletes to compete in all of the first 14 World Masters Athletics Championships. Aussie officials tried to bar Reg from competing as an M40 since the IAAF at that time had a prohibition against “professionals.” But in 2010, Reg was inducted into his homeland’s Masters Hall of Fame. He was the first M40 sprinter to go sub-22 in the 200, and he set at least seven world records over the next two decades while winning 15 world titles. He shows up dozens of times on

Reg ran in professional races, where people bet on outcomes.

Reg once ran in Australian professional races, where people bet on outcomes.

I’m awaiting details on his passing and any funeral services, but for now appreciate his story:

This came from a sprint friend:

Masters’ track lost one of its greatest sprinters this week — Australia’s Reg Austin. He was 78 and died following a long illness.

Reg was one of only 14 athletes to compete in every one of the Masters’ World Track Championships between 1975 and 1999, winning 15 world titles. He was a true triple-threat man — as good in the long sprint as he was in the short ones. Many older masters’ athletes will remember the great duels between Reg and the late Kenny Dennis at 100. Kenny would get out to a huge lead in the first 50, then Reg would reel him in.

Some of Reg’s highlights would include 100 times of 11.24 at 51 and 11.78 at 57; 200 times of 22.40 at 46 and 22.88 at 52; and a 51.81 quarter at age 51. He was awarded the Order of Australia Medal in 1990 for his contributions to Veteran Athletics.

Reg was a class guy and an incredible competitor.

From his Hall of Fame citation:

Reg Austin has been an outstanding sprinter from his early days in the professional running ranks to his extended career in masters athletics. Including his pre masters days, Reg has set 7 world records, in the M35, M40, M45 and M50 age groups over 100M,

200M and 400M, along with some 15 world titles. In the process setting Australian and New South Wales masters records for the same distances and picking up numerous national and state titles. Reg has been an inspirational athlete and an ardent supporter of masters athletics, being awarded the Order of Australia Medal in 1990 for his services to sprinting.

From the history of Aussie masters athletics:

Even before the start of competition (at 1977 Sweden worlds), bitter controversy arose over the participation of known professional runners. Two who caused most debate were Australians M40 Reg Austin from NSW and M55 Queenslander Bernie Hogan. Although their entry was opposed by Australian team managers, as they believed it was against IAAF regulations, the Swedish LOC granted them the right to compete. Both Reg and Bernie won the 100 and 200m sprint double in their respective age-groups.

[Note: Reg competed for Team USA in the first WAVA world meet because Australia wouldn’t let him on its team. David Pain included Reg on the American team to 1975 Toronto worlds as well as on his international track tour.]

Jack Fitzgerald (UK), a member of WAVA executive and editor of Veteris, wrote in his editorial October 1977: “As team manager I was sickened that two Australian professional sprinters were allowed to compete.”

At the time of the WAVA Championships in Brisbane 2001, Reg Austin was one of only a few men who had participated in all 14 World Championships that began in Toronto in 1975. In fact the 2001 championships were the first at which Reg did not won a gold medal in one of the sprints. Being a successful sprinter on the Australian professional circuit Reg was embroiled in the bitter controversy concerning the acceptance of professional runners that raged during the first couple of World Championships.

Until a few years ago Reg was also a regular participant at the nationals. He won the ‘champion of champions’ sprint handicap in 1999 and 2001 and at the time of his induction still held six Australian Records.

Among his world records:

M40 200: 21.9 Reginald Austin Australia 16.10.1936 Gothenburg 10.08.1977

M45 200: 22.40 Reginald Austin Australia 16.10.1936 San Juan 23.09.1983

M50 wind-aided: 22.88 Reginald Austin Australia 16.10.1936 Eugene 01.08.1989

M45 400: 50.61 Reginald Austin Australia 16.10.1936 San Juan 23.09.1983

M50 WR: 51.81 Reginald Austin Australia 16.10.1936 Melbourne 04.12.1987

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June 30, 2015

8 Responses

  1. Ken stone - July 1, 2015

    An account of Reg’s death:

    The great Reg Austin has just passed away. Reg was in hospital a week ago awaiting a gall bladder operation when he fell and hit his head causing blood pooling and bruising to the brain.
    Reg never recovered from that and eventually died this afternoon.
    As you know Reg was one of the all- time great masters sprinters breaking 7 world records and many Australian records some of which are still standing today.
    His passing is a very sadly blow to the masters athletics community.

  2. Les Rooke - July 1, 2015

    I trained and ran against Reg for 15to20yrs at Centenial park ,it was a real privelage to spend this time with him and i have never forgoton how his examples not only on the athletic field but off it also ,it was a true pleasure in my life to know Reg will always be remembered

  3. Ken Stone - July 1, 2015

    Peter Crombie writes from Australia:

    The family [has] advised me that they will be having a small lowkey private funeral next week.

Some weeks later they will organise a special get together down at Rotary Field Chatswood, one Sunday afternoon, where Reg used to train. There will be a ceremonial spreading of his ashes on the track together with some refreshments where people can chat at one of his favourite places.

    This special get together is being put in place for the many athletes that Reg crossed paths with in his long athletic journey.

I will advise later the details of this ceremonial get together. Please come along and share your stories.

  4. Dean Pitman - July 3, 2015

    Very sad to hear of the passing of Reg Austin. I competed against Reg numerous times at professional athletic carnivals throughout New South Wales from 1967 to 1977. He was always highly competitive and a great ambassador of the sport.

    Look forward to the proposed ceremonial get together at Rotary Field Chatswood.

  5. Tony Rice - July 3, 2015

    So sad to read of Reg’s passing. He was for many years one of the real characters of NSW athletics on and off the track, and it was always a pleasure to meet, chat and share a joke or two with him. Whilst he will be affectionately remembered by many in the sport, the real tragedy of his passing is for his family and friends, to whom I send my very sincere condolences.

  6. Fiona Logan - July 3, 2015

    I has the great pleasure of meeting Reg when he was in the Wesley Heights care home,. He was so upbeat and inspiring. Very sad to hear of his passing. My thoughts are with his family and friends at this time.

  7. Ken Stone - July 4, 2015

    Peter Crombie shares more details on Reg Austin services:

    The information about Reg’s funeral has now come to hand. Reg’s family have asked me to advise the athletic community the details;

    The funeral service will be held at Northern Suburbs Crematorium , East Chapel this coming Wednesday at 2.30pm.

    The family would like as many of Reg’s friends as possible to attend and pay their respects to this great man. Please come along and be part of the celebration of the life of Reg Austin as a colossus of the athletics community.

    There will also be a wake with information still TBA and this will be by invitation only.

    The earlier information about the function at Rotary Field Chatswood should be ignored at this time.

  8. Ken Stone - July 9, 2015

    Reg’s early years included rugby. This wonderful article also reveals his all-time sprint bests:

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