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Mayoral tick of approval

(l-r) Rhiannah Woods, Alyssa Luland, James Bertolli, Zali Burke and Elizabeth Hyne have excelled at local athletics meets and are one regional event away from competing at the state schools championships. They are pictured with Clarence Valley mayor Jim Simmons and their coach Tom Hancock. Image: Geoff Helisma.

It was a golden occasion for five young athletes – Rhiannah Woods, Alyssa Luland, James Bertolli, Zali Burke and Elizabeth Hyne – when Clarence Valley’s mayor Jim Simmons presented each of them with a gold medal, previously won by their mentor and coach Tom Hancock.
During the small ceremony at the Maclean council chambers on Friday July 14, Cr Simmons briefly outlined the goings on in the chambers.
“Some pretty interesting things happen in here,” he told the athletes and their parents. He explained how he would like to see the chamber’s two-tiered set up changed to mirror the Grafton chambers, where Cr Simmons brought everyone to the same level as one of his first actions as mayor.
Tom Hancock, who voluntarily coaches the athletes, outlined their achievements. “They all have a lot of talent,” he said, “but is talent enough?”
He reflected on the beginning of his love for athletics in the 1950s and how having a coach can make a big difference, both athletically and socially.
He told the story of Gael Martin, whose mother “brought her across Melbourne” and asked Hancock to coach her daughter. Martin, Hancock says, was a troubled girl whom he knew had been involved in a physical altercation elsewhere … and his stable of athletes was already full.
However, when he saw how far she could throw “from the corner of his eye”, as a raw, untrained athlete, he changed his mind.
As it happened, Martin, who was born in the same year (1956) that Hancock just missed making the Australian Olympic team for javelin, went on to win bronze in the shot put at the Los Angeles Olympic Games and three gold and three silver medals for shot put and javelin events at various Commonwealth Games from 1978 to 1986.
Hancock told his young charges that he was presenting them with some of the many medals he has won competing in masters athletics, to remind them that they “knew that guy as a coach” and to look at the medals and “realise that gold medals are not easy things to get”.
He encouraged them to focus on what they are doing when they are competing, by blocking out all around them; and to think, “I haven’t come all this way to lose.”
“You don’t have to win, but you should think about that,” he told them, “but you will have progressed and maybe set a new personal best.”
Hancock, who is a level 5 coach, is currently listed at number three in the world on the 2016 Most Improved Leader Board among masters athletes aged 30 and over.
He is ranked in the top 10 in each of the six ‘throws’ disciplines and high jump, and either first or second across each of these in the Australia and Oceania regions.