John Davies had four
separate and equally successful careers in sport and in each he forged an
He won the bronze medal behind Peter Snell in the 1964 Tokyo Olympic 1500m and, in addition, won an Empire Games silver medal in the mile at Perth in 1962, again behind Snell. Though Snell beat him on both those important occasions, Davies scored more wins over Snell than did anyone else. Through 1963 Davies outraced Snell, beating him several times in succession.
Davies certainly made the most of his chances at Tokyo, where he was extremely fortunate to reach the final.
Wearing 467 (a lucky omen, because that was the number that Jack Lovelock wore during his 1500m gold medal run in Berlin in 1936), Davies cruised through the first round and then got involved in a slow, tactical semi-final. Davies had to run very wide around the last bend of his semi and was unable to burst through up the straight. With four to qualify, Dyrol Burleson and Alan Simpson locked up two positions and Davies was one of four men who lunged at the tape trying to grab one of the other two qualifying spots. As well as Davies, Jean Wadoux (France), Kip Keino (Kenya) and Eugene Allonsius (Belgium) had all been clocked at 3min 41.2s. The photo finish showed Davies' feet behind the others, but the upper part of his body was ahead. Keino, who won the 1500m gold medal four years later, and Allonsius were the unlucky pair.
In the final, Davies and Simpson looked to be disputing the silver medal until the Czech, Josef Odlozil, darted down the outside. Odlozil and Davies were timed at 3min 39.6s, with Simpson 0.1s behind. It was the first time two New Zealanders had won medals in the same Olympic event.
Despite his superb record, which included five consecutive national one-mile titles, Davies, one of Arthur Lydiard's stable of great runners, was forced by injury into retirement before reaching his peak.
London-born Davies, whose family immigrated to New Zealand in 1953, grew up in Otago and shifted to Tokoroa in his late teens.
Once he finished running, he turned his attention to coaching and built a wonderful record. He advised Mike Ryan, who stunned the athletics world in 1968 by winning a marathon bronze medal at the altitude-blighted Mexico City Olympics. Other runners, soon to be famous, came to his attention, including Lorraine Moller and Dick Quax.
He had similar results with Anne Audain, transforming her from a struggling national-level runner into a world-class athlete.
There were many other success stories, including, for parts of their careers, Peter O'Donoghue, Dave Burridge, Kerry Rodger, Helen Hawley, Helen Moros, 1996 Olympic 800m finalist Toni Hodgkinson and cross-country and mountain-running queen Melissa Moon.
Davies was one of the coaches of the 1987 and 1991 New Zealand teams for the world championships, and of the 1988 Olympic team. He was the official national distance coach from 1985-91.
He also became involved in sports administration. For three years leading to 1990, he was a director of the Auckland Commonwealth Games Company, he helped set up the Jack Lovelock Foundation and he was, for a time in the early 1990s, a board member of Athletics New Zealand.
He and Quax formed a successful promotions team and organised the annual international track and field series for nearly a decade.
As well as the international series, Davies and Quax promoted a series of business-house runs in Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland.
In 2000 Davies won a tight contest to succeed Sir David Beattie as president of the New Zealand Olympic Committee. He was a staunch advocate of Olympism and did much to give the Olympic Committee direction at a crucial time.
Davies also became heavily involved in the media. He wrote columns for New Zealand Runner, Metro and North and South and was for three decades a key man on the Television New Zealand commentary team at all the big athletic meets and at Olympic and Commonwealth Games.
In the 1990 Queen's Birthday Honours, Davies was awarded an MBE, for services to athletics. In October 2000, John Davies succeeded Sir David Beattie to become the NZOC president. He was awarded the Leonard Cuff medal by the International Olympic Academy for promoting Olympism, only weeks before he died in Auckland on 21 July 2003.
The immensely popular Davies died of cancer in 2003. He was survived by his second wife, Patsy, by his children, Richard and Bronwen from his first marriage; and Eli, the grandson he and Patsy adopted.