Lifesaving Legends Honoured On Walk Of Fame

Two legends of the Surf Life Saving community have had their contributions set in stone in the Australian Surfing Walk of Fame at Sydney’s Maroubra Beach.

Commemorative plates honouring champion swimmer and lifesaver Ron McKeon and the late Walter Brown were added to the walk and will take their place among other champions of the water.

Since 2006, two greats of surfing and Surf Life Saving are inducted annually by a committee led by Randwick City Council with the formal unveiling done at the Beach Breaks Carnival held in July. The athletes recognised aren’t necessarily from the area, but are deemed to have made significant contributions to the sport over a number of years.

Both of this year’s Surf Life Saving inductees certainly made strong contributions to the movement both in and out of the water.

Although the Wollongong-based McKeon is better known these days for his contribution to swimming, he was pretty handy in the surf as well.

He started his competition career as a junior at South Maroubra SLSC before tasting individual medal success on the international stage winning gold in the 200 and 400 metre freestyle events at the 1978 Commonwealth Games, as well as a bronze in the 200 at the 182 Brisbane Games.

Throughout his career he also achieved relay success, and had the honour of being a dual Olympian representing Australia at both the 1980 and 84 Games.

McKeon wasn’t able to attend the unveiling ceremony as he is currently in Russia in his role as open water swim coach with the Australian team.

Surf Life Saving NSW Chief Executive Officer Phil Vanny AM said that McKeon is a worthy addition to the walk in light of his significant ocean accomplishments.

"Ron's the only swimmer to my knowledge who won the Surf Life Saving cadet surf race, the junior surf race, junior belt race, open surf race and open belt race at the Australian titles," Mr Vanny said.

"Most people know the McKeon family more for their pool swimming prowess with their kids and (Ron's wife) Susie, but he always combined the pool and ocean."

The life story of the late Wally Brown had its ups and downs, but as Australia’s first Olympic kayaking medallist it is fitting that his career is honoured on the legends walk.

Brown, who passed away in 2011, teamed up with Dennis Green (who is also an inductee of the Walk of Fame) to win a historic bronze in the K-10,000 at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. The pair earned the distinction of being not only the first Australians to medal in kayaking, paving the way for many subsequent performances, but were the first non-Europeans to medal in the event.

The duo, who first met at Maroubra SLSC were both outstanding ski paddlers and swimmers and their performance is regarded as one of the most memorable from the Melbourne Olympics.

Surf Life Saving NSW would like to congratulate Ron McKeon and the late Wally Brown for this recognition, and if you happen to find yourself walking the path at Maroubra Beach, look down and take a moment to reflect on the achievements of these champions past.

Photograph: The new plaque honouring Ron McKeon along the Australian Surfing Walk of Fame

Thu 30 Jul 2015