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Written by Administrator   
Tuesday, 04 June 2019 21:43

Vale Bill Butchart

Bill Erskine Butchart was born on 15 April 1933 and was a middle-distance runner for the Botany Harriers, NSW and Australia. As a 23-year-old Butchart competed in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics Games, running in the men's 800 metres where he placed eighth in the final. Bill was a RBH life member and very generously supported our club.

Bill Butchart (124) running at the Melbourne Olympics

Bill grew up in Parsley Bay, where he participated in recreational races at the local social clubs. He was always a very talented runner with a naturally competitive nature, making him very successful during grammar school.
From a young age, Butchart sensed that he had a natural inclination for running when he was consistently winning junior state titles and breaking records while doing it.

In 1952, at only the age of 18, Bill ran in the qualifying races for the Helsinki Olympics. The competition at these races was a level above what he was used to at the junior level and he ended up missing the qualifying times for these Olympic Games by only half of a second. While disappointed, he knew his finishing time was so close, which only encouraged him to train harder.

After years of on and off training, Bill became the best 800 metre runner in New South Wales, however between working long hours to make a living and an injury to his Achilles tendon he was forced to slow down his running career in order to keep up with the other demands of life. Even with these obstacles, his big break finally came in 1956.

In the qualifying races for the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, Bill showed up to the 880 yards trial more prepared than he has ever been. However, due to the extremely unlucky circumstance of getting boxed in during the race, he finished fourth: a tremendous disappointment after years of hard work. Then, the unexpected happened where an 800 metre qualifying race was newly scheduled for the following weekend, and Bill had the opportunity for redemption. He gave the race of his life, finishing in 1 minute and 50.03 seconds, his then personal best and the overall best time that year for an Australian, sending him to the Melbourne Olympics.

After much success at the Melbourne Olympics from running in the qualifying race where he placed third and the semi-final where he placed fourth, the exhaustion took a toll on his body leaving him to place eighth in the final.

He retired in 1957 after years of strain to his achilles tendon, injured him beyond repair. His personal best time was 1:49.5.

His story of hard work and perseverance led him from a young boy running races with his classmates to a proud Olympic athlete, who leaves a legacy full of resilience and determination.

Bill was a long-time supporter of the Randwick Botany Harriers and gave financial support, usually anonymously, to Harriers selected to compete internationally. For instance, in 2006 he fully funded Selma Kajan to compete at World School Games in Greece.
Bill was made a life member of RBH in 2010.

Bill Butchart died on 1 April 2019, aged 85 years.

Olympic Results

1956 - Melbourne

800m - Men
Qualifying ..... 1:51.6 ...... 3rd
Semi Final 1:53.8 4th
Final 1:52.5 8th
Final Placing 8/38
Olympians meeting Olympians. In 2016, 1956 800m finalist Bill Butchart meets 2016 800m Olympian, both RBH athletes.
Also with them dual Olympian Collis Birmingham.

1956 Olympics 800m Final


Tom Courtney




Derek Johnson




Audun Boysen




Arnie Sowell




Michael Farrell




Lonnie Spurrier




Emile Leva




Bill Butchart



Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 June 2019 22:47
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