Wodonga-raised athlete Merv Lincoln, who was the 11th person in the world to run a mile in under four minutes, has died at age 82.
Mr Lincoln finished his “last race” on Sunday in Melbourne.
Newer Border residents may have heard of Mr Lincoln because of his namesake the Lincoln Causeway but in the 1950s, his surname was synonymous with one of Australia’s greatest running rivalries.
The Gippsland-born Mr Lincoln gained fame across the country and overseas for his races against Western Australian Herb Elliott.
Mr Lincoln was considered the likely successor of John Landy, the second man to run a mile in less than four minutes, and was a favourite to win at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics before an injury derailed him in the finals.
Two years later and Mr Elliott established himself as the best miler in the world as Mr Lincoln’s reputation was as the man who always came runner-up.
Mr Landy said Mr Lincoln was all in all a great guy and it was sad he had departed.
“The one he should have won was against Herb Elliott in Perth (February 16, 1958),” he said.
“He surprised Herb and passed him and seemed certain to win and Herb got up and beat him by inches.”
Both men clocked in at three minutes, 59.6 seconds but after conferring for five minutes the judges ruled in favour of Mr Elliott.
Mr Elliott said he recalled it as the closest he ever came to losing in the mile.
“The result was we ran the fastest time in the world on grass, we had a great race,” he said.
“He was a fine athlete and a fine bloke.”
Mr Lincoln’s finest running moment was in Dublin in 1958 when he came second to Elliott but also beat the then world record.
He married in 1959 to Tangambalanga girl Dawn Waite and they had three children together.
Mr Lincoln grew a successful business in economics and was a teacher at two Melbourne universities.
His best mate Bill Traill said Mr Lincoln was a life long friend who was always committed to doing his best.
“He would rank along with Margaret Court and Lauren Jackson in the top echelon of globally performing Albury-Wodonga athletes,” he said.
Mr Lincoln’s public funeral will be held next Tuesday at Trinity College chapel at the University of Melbourne mid-morning.
A wake will be held at the university’s athletics track, the site of his first sub-four-minute run, afterwards.