Rowing Australia was saddened to hear of the passing of Reginald Free on 21 February 2015. Mr Free rowed for Australia and Tasmania while in later life was one of Queensland’s greatest State rowing coaches.
Born on 6 May 1943 in Tasmania, Free’s achievements rank him as one of Tasmania’s finest oarsmen, having represented the ‘Apple Isle’ 11 times and Australia three from 1962 to 1977. He rowed for his State in more King’s Cups than any other oarsman and was just 19 years-old when he was first selected to represent Tasmania in the 1962 King’s Cup held in Ballarat.
In 1967, Free became the first Tasmanian oarsman to be chosen to row in the Australian Men’s Eight. The 24-year-old’s crew finished sixth in the World Rowing Championships held in Vichy, France that year.
After concluding his on-water career and coaching in Tasmania, Free moved with his wife Helen and three children Marcus, Anita and Duncan to Queensland in 1983 and it is from here that Free began coaching his sons to State, national and international victories.
Free coached numerous Queensland King’s Cup crew in the 1990’s, including coaching son Duncan to a record seven wins for Queensland in the President’s Cup (Interstate Men’s Single Scull).
One of Reg’s most unique coaching achievements was coaching his sons Marcus and Duncan in the Men’s Double Scull at the 1997 and 1998 World Rowing Championships, winning a bronze medal at the 1997 event at Aiguebelette, France.
Duncan also won a bronze medal with Australia’s quadruple sculls crew in the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games and then claimed a gold medal with Drew Ginn in the Men’s Coxless Pairs in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
Rowing Australia High Performance Director, Chris O’Brien, said: “Reg was a stalwart of not only Tasmanian and Queensland rowing but of Australian rowing as a whole and his presence will be sorely missed. He was a passionate and dedicated coach and the rowing community has lost a true champion of the sport.”
Free continued to volunteer coach in later life at a number of schools on the Gold Coast while he was not only a rowing coach he also was a noted netball coach for a number of teams.
In 1987, Free was inducted into Tasmania’s Sport Hall of Fame while in November 2014, Free was awarded Gold Coast Volunteer of the Year in recognition of his efforts in the building of the sport of rowing in the Gold Coast.
Reg Free’s funeral will be held on Thursday 26 February at Newlife Uniting Church, Robina, Queensland.