29 May 2018

NZ running legend Dick Quax dies

1:05 pm on 29 May 2018

The New Zealand running legend Dick Quax has died, losing a long battle with cancer.

Dick Quax (far left) at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal.

Dick Quax at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal. Photo: AFP

Quax, who claimed a silver medal in the 5000m at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, was aged 70.

The former world record-holder died at Auckland's Middlemore Hospital on Monday morning, the Mayor of Auckland's office confirmed.

Quax was a standing Auckland councillor.

Dick Quax at an Auckland Unitary Plan meeting. 10 August 2016.

Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

People have been paying tribute to Quax on social media.

On Twitter, NZ Olympic athlete Nick Willis thanked Quax for being a "great role model".

Fellow Kiwi running great Rod Dixon also expressed his sadness at the news in a Facebook post.

"Right now this is the most emotional time, my great friend and competitor passed away peacefully in New Zealand this morning," he said.

Dixon raced alongside Quax in the 1976 Olympic 5000m final.

"To his family my condolences and love at this most difficult time.

"Peaceful journey my great friend."

Alongside Sir John Walker and Rod Dixon, Dick Quax was a prominent figure in what was a golden era for New Zealand distance running in the 1970s.

Born in the Netherlands before moving to New Zealand as a boy, Quax emerged as a leading runner while attending Hamilton Boys' High School.

Best known for his run to Olympic silver in 1976, the following year Quax achieved what was arguably a more impressive feat, breaking the 5000m world record in Stockholm, in Sweden. Quax also picked up silver in the 1500m at the 1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh.

The world record stood for less than a year, but as a national record was not bettered until 31 years later when Adrian Blincoe set a new mark in 2008.

Later in his career, Quax shifted his focus to marathon running, where he ran the fastest debut marathon in history and then established a New Zealand record.

Last week, RNZ spoke to him about cross country running and why a quarter of primary school-aged children do not like it.

Quax disputed the idea that the format of cross country itself needed to change.

"Cross country races - they're always exciting so I don't see why we [need to make it more exciting]," Mr Quax said.

"People for generations have found these races to be exciting."

More recently, Quax turned to politics, representing Pakuranga first on the Manukau City Council and then the Auckland Council for most of the 17 years since 2001.

He had two unsuccessful tilts at the Manukau mayoralty, and twice stood unsuccessfully for the ACT party.

Quax created a global ripple three years ago, after saying no one in the western world did their shopping by bike or on a train.

That practice became known light-heartedly as "Quaxing".

He had been on leave of absence from his role as an Auckland councillor, due to his battle with cancer.

Quax is survived by his wife Roxanne, daughter Tania and sons Jacob, 21, and Theo, 18, who has had success as a long-distance runner at age-group level in New Zealand.