Former world record holder Dick Quax dies

News 28/05/2018

Former world 5000 metres record holder and Auckland councillor Dick Quax has died of cancer, aged 70.

Born Theodorus Jacobus Leonardus Quax, he was best known as one of the legenday trio of 'Flying Kiwis' - along with John Walker and Rod Dixon - through the 1970s.

During that era, his achievements were highlighted by his 5000m silver medal at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, edged by legendary Finn Lasse Viren, and a world record (13m 12.9s) over the same distance the following year at Stockholm, Sweden.

He also won a silver medal over 1500 metres at the 1970 Edinburgh Commonwealth Games and later in his career, Quax ran 2h 11m 13s in his first marathon attempt at Eugene, Oregon, which was the fastest debut over the 42.195km distance at that time.

His 5000m time stood as a national record for 31 years, until it was beaten by Adrian Blincoe at Heusden, Belgium, in 2008.

Quax also combined with Kevin Ross, Tony Polhill and Dick Tayler for a 4x one mile relay world record.

Among the first responding to his death was old crony Dixon, who lives in the United States.

"Right now this is the most emotional time," Dixon posted on Facebook. "My great friend and competitor passed away peacefully in New Zealand this morning. 

"To his family, my condolences and love at this most difficult time. Peaceful journey my great friend."

Another was former Kiwi running great of that same era, Anne Audain.

"Dick was my NZ teammate many times, and we shared the distinction of being NZ’s male and female 5000m world record holders with same coach John Davies," she posted.

"So sad for his family... his talent lives on!"

Triple Olympic champion Sir Peter Snell was another to pay tribute to Quax's athletic achievements.

"Dick was a fun guy to be around," Snell told Newshub. "I remember him fondly and I'm really sad to hear that he has been taken from us way too early.

"He is in the top echelon of distance runners. His Olympic performances, his world records and performances generally dicatate that he's earned that position."

After retiring from athletics, Quax turned to politics - both local and national - running unsuccessfully for Parliament as ACT candidate in Pakuranga in 1999. He was ranked 11th on the party list, but only the first nine progressed to Parliament.

He was more successful in local politics, elected to the Manukau City Council in 2001, representing the Pakuranga ward and re-elected in the new Botany-Clevedon ward three years later, after a failed mayoralty bid.

In 2007, he again lost the mayoralty race to Len Brown.

After 'Super City' amalagamation, Quax won an Auckland Council by-election in Howick in 2011 and was re-elected two years later.

He was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2013.

Earlier this year, Quax told NZME that his cancer was caused by the HPV human papilloma virus that most sexually active adults have.

"In about one percent of cases, it turns into cancer," he said. "You get a bit unlucky to have that happen.

"Then, 80 percent of neck and head cancer is cured. For about 5-10 percent, it goes to the lungs, which has happened with me, so percentages mean absolutely nothing to me any more."

"It's tough, but I'm not dying from cancer - I'm living with cancer."

In 2015, he achieved infamy with his tweet that no-one in the Western world would shop by means of train or bicycle. Twitter users coined the expression #quaxing, which was voted 'Word of the Year' by The Public Address website.

Quax was outspoken throughout his sporting and political careers, and remained so until the end. One of his most recent 'hot topics' was the blurring of sexuality barriers in sports.

"I definitely will not be watching the womans weightlifting from the Com Games this afternoon which I consider fraudulent due to the inclusion of Laurel Hubbard," he posted on social media, during last month's Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

Son Theo Quax is following in dad's footsteps - he's national junior 1500m champion and has qualified for the world junior championships later this year.