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    The Australian Olympic family is mourning the death of dual Olympian Neale Lavis OAM.

    Neale was best known as one of the four-man Australian equestrian team that made history by winning Australia’s first Olympic equestrian medals at the 1960 Rome Olympic Games.

    In a remarkable story, three of the Eventing Team including Neale, Lawrence Morgan and Bill Roycroft, came from the outback and brought with them horses that had been bred in the bush.

    The horses sailed with them for six weeks to London in a cargo ship, but after great success at several events in London prior to the Games, Neale’s horse Mirrabooka became lame five weeks prior to the Olympics. Neale had to train on his reserve horse, Adeli, but as the Games approached, he made the tough decision to bring Mirrabooka with him to Rome because of his “never give in” attitude.

    Neale – who was the youngest on the Eventing Team at 30 years of age – and Mirrabooka were almost faultless over the three days of competition, finishing on 16.50 points to win the individual silver, behind fellow countryman Laurie Morgan who won the gold.

    Morgan and Lavis’ podium finishes, along with Roycroft’s heroic show jumping segment after he bailed himself out of hospital from a fall in the cross-country, and joined by teammate Brian Crago, won Australia the gold medal in Rome on 128.18 points.

    Neale bought Mirrabooka in Cooma for £100, and after the Olympics was offered £10,000 for him but refused to sell him. He returned to the Olympic stage at Tokyo 1964, finishing seventh in the Team event.

    AOC President John Coates AC paid tribute to Neale’s contribution to the Olympic movement as an athlete, mentor and coach to the wider equestrian community.

    “One of our finest ever equestrians,” Mr Coates said. “Neale maintained a lifetime association with equestrian sports and the Olympic movement. A wonderful role model, a wonderful man.”

    In later life Neale became involved with cattle and established a stud farm in Braidwood at which the great racehorses Just a Dash and Strawberry Road were bred.

    Neale was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1989, one year before he was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for his service to the equestrian sports as a competitor, coach, administrator and to the community.


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