Running great Steve on a mission for Australia
FORTY days out from the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, the man in the performance hot seat, chef de mission Steve Moneghetti, is in Noosa nursing a crook calf, but without a twinge of regret that his gold medal marathon days are forever behind him.
"Monas” as he was known and loved by Aussies when he strode the world as a fearless long distance runner in the 1980s and 1990s is here at his "second home” to help inspire and guide Brisbane-based coach Chris Gale's Galeforce Running Squad over the weekend.
These are mostly runners of all ages and ability who run for sheer love of it, not the sort of medals that will be on offer on the glitter coast. And all are keen to take some running gems of wisdom away from this legend with a little bit of larrikin in him.
Age ... he's a super fit looking 55-year-old ... looks to have treated him well, but the calf is not cooperating and he's happy to leave the road racing heroics to others these days.
"I'm pretty good (about retirement) - I'm really good now. That's the advantage - you're always an athlete, but I retired knowing my time was done,” he said
"I was always comfortable to move on. I mean how lucky am I to be still involved in this as much as what I am?”
After his Noosa stint, Monas will be back at the helm of the Australian teams, helping mastermind the home turf assault on the uncomfortable ascendancy the Poms have built up ever since the London Olympics.
"It's actually 40 days today to the Games,” Moneghetti said as he prepares to put the Galeforce squad through their paces on the sand at Sunshine Beach.
"We won't have any problems figuring in the races, don't worry about that,” he said.
"That's what I'm doing now - a lot of (Games) meetings and preparation making sure all the athletes are ready to go. You can do all you can, but at some stage you just have to wait for it to start.”
He believes the cashed-up England team will be hard opposition along with other top class teams, "but I think a little bit of the edge may have come off them”.
Despite his love of long distance, Moneghetti is delighted to see the outstanding young talents in Australian sprinting stocks at the athletic selection trials just complete.
"I was there and they were impressive, especially the male sprinters and (female teenage star) Riley Day of course ... the Queenslanders most particularly.
"I think our marathon runners are always pretty strong, particularly in the Commonwealth Games and our women especially will be very strong.”
Marathoners must have some inner mongrel in them to make it to the end, but only a special, driven athlete has the guts to run their hearts out to take Commonwealth Games gold (1994 Victoria) silver (Auckland) and bronze (twice).
Monas first announced himself to the general public after the 10,000m athlete ran a game third in his first 42km attempt at Edinburgh in 1986, behind defending champion and Aussie legend Robert de Castella.
And to stamp his staying power, he took bronze in the 1998 Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games. The year before he'd taken world championship bronze in Athens.
His final race on the big stage was at home where he finished a stirring 10th at the Sydney Olympics.
Last year he returned
to Berlin to compete in the city of his first ever marathon win 27 years before.
"It was pretty emotional, back then we were the
first people to run through the Brandenburg Gate
(after the Berlin Wall came down).
"I ran the fastest time in the world that year (1990), so it kind of put them on the map and it put me on the map,” Monas said.
"I had a bit of calf issue (last year), but I shuffled along a but I got there. I was about as twice as slow as when I won.”
The astute and affable Ballarat boy is a regular at the Noosa Triathlon sports festival thanks to a strong friendship with the event's godfather, the late Garth Prowd, and once owned a house in Noosa.
"That invite from Garth brought me up and obviously I love (to run) the national park,” he said.
And he has seen over the years "the amazing increase in people who are running”.
"It's booming. We would run and people would say we were crazy, who could do that? So it's great to see and you'd like to think you had something to do with it.
"I love running - it's my passion and I like to share a bit of that with other people.
"Running is actually very social - people used to talk about the lonely life of a long distance runner, but it's not, it's really social.
"I only see these (Galeforce) guys a couple of times a year, so it's nice to check in and see how they're going.”
And he's keen to lead the Noosa Tri fun run again later this year.