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Edward Russell Mockridge (1928–1958)

by Cameron Hazlehurst and Sally Whitehead

This article was published:

Russell Mockridge (front) with Lionel Cox after winning the 2000 metre tandem at the 1952 Olympic Games

Russell Mockridge (front) with Lionel Cox after winning the 2000 metre tandem at the 1952 Olympic Games

National Archives of Australia, A1200:L45363

Edward Russell Mockridge (1928-1958), cyclist, was born on 18 July 1928 in South Melbourne, second son of Victorian-born parents Robert Glover Mockridge, engineer, and his wife Aileen Claire, née Riley. In 1931 the family moved from Laverton to Geelong. Russell attended Geelong College and gained his Leaving certificate before joining the Geelong Advertiser as a cadet journalist. Seeking 'a little healthy exercise', he entered his first bicycle race with the Geelong amateur club in 1946: though unprepared and pedalling an old roadster, he won the event. He then progressed rapidly. A close third in the Melbourne to Castlemaine handicap on 9 August 1947 earned him selection for the Victorian team in the Australian road championships. He won the 125-mile (201 km) road title on 30 August at Centennial Park, Sydney.

At the 1948 Olympic Games in London, Mockridge had the misfortune to have his tyre punctured twice in the 194.6-km road race, which pushed him back to 26th in a field of 101. By the time of the 1950 Empire Games at Auckland, New Zealand, he was Australia's premier cyclist, winning gold medals in the time trial and the 1000-metre sprint, and silver in the 4000-metre individual pursuit. After he returned home, he created a sensation by quitting the sport and his job to prepare for the Anglican ministry. Having matriculated through Taylor's Coaching College, he enrolled in arts at the University of Melbourne; beset by doubts about his calling, he returned to the track within fourteen months.

Mockridge reached the final of the World Amateur Sprint Championship in Italy in 1951. Next year he won the Open Grand Prix, riding as an amateur against an embarrassed world professional champion Reg Harris. Mockridge's place in the team for the 1952 Helsinki Olympics appeared certain until the Australian Olympic Federation required athletes to sign a £750 fidelity bond to remain amateur for two years after the Games. Keen to turn professional, he refused to sign. Bervin Purnell, the mayor of Geelong, eventually broke the impasse by guaranteeing the money if the A.O.F. would reduce the amateur term to a year. In Helsinki Mockridge won a gold medal in the 1000-metre time trial and another on the same day—paired for the first time with Lionel Cox—in the 2000-metre tandem.

As a novice professional in Europe, Mockridge did not perform well. He abandoned track racing and made a modest living in kermesse (road) and critérium (closed circuit road) races. At the Church-in-the-Grove, Sydenham, London, on 26 September 1953 he married Irene Pritchard with Congregational forms. In 1955 he teamed with Roger Arnold and Sid Patterson to win the Paris six-day event. Returning to Australia after an acclaimed solo ride in the Tour de France, he signed a contract with the promoter Ted Waterford. Over the next three years he became the most celebrated Australian cyclist of his generation, frequently winning from scratch in both track and road races.

The congenitally shortsighted Mockridge was an introspective loner. An abstemious non-smoker, he eschewed performance-enhancing drugs. Less gifted opponents resented his occasional refusals to share major prize-money. Nevertheless, in his posthumously published autobiography, My World on Wheels (London, 1960), he wrote candidly about various 'arrangements' to which he had been party.

On 13 September 1958, shortly after the start of the Tour of Gippsland, Mockridge was struck by a bus and killed on the Princes Highway at Clayton, Melbourne. Survived by his wife and 3-year-old daughter, he was cremated. His estate was sworn for probate at £3000. With a world speed record in the Warrnambool to Melbourne classic in 1956, and a string of formidable performances over the next two seasons, Mockridge had seemed set for a triumphant return to Europe. Early jibes that he was a 'china doll' or 'little Lord Fauntleroy', too delicate for robust competition, had been silenced. Already an international star, he died with great potential unfulfilled.

Select Bibliography

  • H. Gordon, Young Men in a Hurry (Melb, 1961)
  • J. Shepherd, Encyclopedia of Australian Sport (Adel, 1980)
  • M. Andrews, Australia at the Olympics (Syd, 1996)
  • People (Sydney), 24 Sept 1952
  • Australian Cyclist, 4, no 6, Oct 1988.

Citation details

Cameron Hazlehurst and Sally Whitehead, 'Mockridge, Edward Russell (1928–1958)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 17 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (Melbourne University Press), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Russell Mockridge (front) with Lionel Cox after winning the 2000 metre tandem at the 1952 Olympic Games

Russell Mockridge (front) with Lionel Cox after winning the 2000 metre tandem at the 1952 Olympic Games

National Archives of Australia, A1200:L45363