This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007
Gary James Knoke (1942-1984), athlete, teacher and coach, was born on 5 February 1942 at Punchbowl, Sydney, eldest son of James Leslie Knoke, clerk, and his wife Freda Adelaide, née Rees, both Sydney born. Gary attended Eastwood Public and Enmore High schools. A very popular student, he excelled in sport, particularly tennis, but he was to make his name in track and field athletics. In 1959 he joined the Randwick-Botany Amateur Athletic Club, where he was coached by Ernie Watson. With a `sinewy torso and lean legs’, Knoke became an outstanding hurdler. He won his first senior State title, the 120-yards hurdles, in 1962 and his last, the 400-metres hurdles, in 1973. In all, he claimed nine New South Wales and ten Australian hurdles titles, as well as six State sprint titles.
After completing (1962) a diploma in physical education at Teachers’ College, Sydney, Knoke taught briefly at Kingsgrove High School. From 1967 he studied at the University of Oregon (B.Sc.(PE), 1969), United States of America, having been awarded an athletics scholarship. He ran for his university while in the USA and was never defeated in the 400-metres hurdles. On 25 January 1969 at Eugene, Oregon, he married Ann Michelle Reinmuth, a student. He returned to Australia later that year and taught at Drummoyne Boys’ High School, Sydney.
Knoke represented Australia in the 1962, 1966, 1970 and 1974 Commonwealth Games and in the 1964, 1968 and 1972 Olympic Games. He was placed fourth in the final of the 400-metres hurdles in the Tokyo Olympics in 1964 and fifth in his semi-final in Mexico City in 1968. In his semi-final in Munich, West Germany, in 1972 he mistook an echo of the starter’s gun for a recall and slowed to a walk before realising his error. He finished sixth and out of the final. Thereafter, any Australian athlete doing likewise or missing the start was said to have `done a Knoke’.
In 1981 Knoke was appointed to the Australian Institute of Sport, Canberra, where he successfully coached the Olympic sprinter Paul Narracott, the Olympic hurdler Don Wright and the Commonwealth Games hurdler and gold medallist Garry Brown. He held the national 400-metres hurdles record (on Australian soil) of 49.4 seconds for over ten years before it was finally broken by Brown. Knoke was a quiet and popular man of great inner strength and religious conviction. He died of cancer on 9 July 1984 at Calvary Hospital, Bruce, and was cremated with Anglican rites. His wife and their two sons survived him. He is commemorated at the AIS by the Gary Knoke memorial scholarship for athletics.
John A. Daly, 'Knoke, Gary James (1942–1984)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/knoke-gary-james-12749/text22993, published in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 2 September 2014.
This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007