Olympian and Docklands speed skater takes out Queen’s Birthday honour

Olympian and Docklands speed skater takes out Queen’s Birthday honour
Brendan Rees

A six-time speed skating Winter Olympian and life member of the Docklands Demons Ice Racing Club has been recognised in the Queen’s Birthday honours.

Colin Coates was appointed an Order of Australia (OAM) for his services to speed skating – an achievement he is most proud of.

“I was very chuffed, I thought it was great,” he said.

With an Olympic career spanning 20 years, Mr Coates said he never thought he would be able represent Australia after leaving school to take up a plumbing apprenticeship aged 15.

His friend Colin Hickey, also a speed skater and a three-time Olympian, encouraged Mr Coates to compete at the Australian championships.

Initially thinking it would be hard to take time off work, Mr Coates went but only because “they told me whoever wins gets to go to the Olympics.”

“I said ‘What?’ Well, I won.”

His first Olympics was in Grenoble, France in 1968 when he was 21; an experience he relished in.  

“When I saw the ice show, I got a shock. It was huge compared to what I’d ever seen in my life,” he said.

“You have no idea what you’re going to. I left Australia to go to the Olympics, I didn’t even have a pair of skates, because this is outdoor skating and I race indoor on a short track.”

During his illustrious career, a highlight included placing sixth at the Innerbruck Winter Olympics in 1976, which, at the time, was Australia’s best ever placing at a Winter Olympics.

He also placed fourth twice at the 1000-metre World Championships speed skating as well as placing in the top 16 in the World Championships 10 times.

Asked if he ever thought he would represent Australia, he said, “I can be honest, no way,” adding a big thrill was being the Australian flag bearer at two Olympic Games.

“I just wanted to try and be the best, that was the aim to be the best in the world,” he said.

But he added, “I had too many disadvantages, I didn’t have any money, I didn’t have a coach, I didn’t have a doctor and all the support all the other teams have.”

“Under all the circumstances I was very happy and proud of how well I skated.”

Mr Coates also served as president of the Docklands Demons Ice Racing Club in 2011 and was a Hall of Fame Inductee at the Australian Ice Racing.

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