Here’s why Dick Telford, sporting hero and academic pursued his career in Canberra

Posted 17 May 2017

Story by CBR Canberra

When Dick Telford was headhunted in 1981 to start his sporting career at the newly nominated Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) in Canberra, he was reluctant.

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At the time, Dick loved his life in Melbourne, however, he couldn’t pass the fabulous job opportunity and made the move on the proviso that he could always return.

Much to Dick’s surprise, within the year he fell in love with Canberra and never left.

“I moved to Canberra for a job thinking that I would come for a year, see what it’s like and get back to Melbourne, but one year turned into 36 and I’m still here,” he said.

Dick says basing his career in Canberra gave him plenty of opportunities as a sports scientist, and allowed him to be a successful sports coach and now physical literacy pioneer.

Dick has coached distance runners in Canberra to eight Commonwealth Games medals, four gold, as well as coaching Australia’s only Olympic marathon medallist, Lisa Ondieki.

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(Picture: Dick with Lisa Weightman and Michael Shelley; currently the fastest marathon runners in Australia).

His coaching accomplishments saw him inducted in to the Sport Australia Hall of Fame and he now devotes his time looking into the physical literacy of Australian children.

Dick is the director of the Lifestyle of Our Kids study (LOOK); a national investigation of multiple areas of health from physical activity to family influence.

“Initially, the Commonwealth Education Trust in the U.K. suggested I carry out the project in Cambridge, U.K., but I told them Canberra is the perfect place to do it because of the great facilities, so we started the project at the Australian National University, Canberra Hospital, and the University of Canberra (UC),” he said.

Dick loves Canberra’s easy-going lifestyle and the way the city has transformed over recent years.

“People sometimes refer to Canberra as having no heart and soul which annoys me,” Dick said. “Canberra has developed into a cosmopolitan hub, there are a lot of people here bringing life to the city in all sorts of ways.”

“It’s just so easy here to be efficient, on a busy day I can get to work within 15 minutes. You can’t get anywhere in Sydney in 15 minutes,” he said.

Canberra is perfect for an active lifestyle, with bike paths supplying easy access to the city and beautiful bush trails to explore.

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With its multitude of outdoor options, Dick says Canberra is the best environment in Australia to train runners.

“Canberra is rife with great facilities for athletes,” he said. “There are the bike paths, bush-lands, world-class athletic tracks at the universities and one of the best if not the best cross-country courses in the world.”

“A lot of my athletes come here to be coached and also study at Australia’s leading universities, ANU and UC, which is a great lifestyle combination,” he said.

No matter what you want to achieve, Canberra is the place to surround yourself with people who will inspire you. Dick is a walking testament to the opportunity Canberra offers.

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