Queen’s Birthday Honours List: Lyn Foreman awarded Medal of the Order of Australia

Lyn Foreman with sons Mark (left) and Glen, daughter-in-law Sarah and grandchildren Johnathan and Charlotte. Picture: Daniel Wilkins
Lyn Foreman with sons Mark (left) and Glen, daughter-in-law Sarah and grandchildren Johnathan and Charlotte. Picture: Daniel Wilkins

LYN Foreman was the national champion hurdler who never wanted to be a coach.

“Why would I want to be a coach?” she thought when her career wrapped up in the ’80s after rupturing an achilles.

“You’re either a sacked coach or about to be sacked.”

But Foreman eventually gave in to the craft after being “pushed” into it by late husband and broadcasting great Wally Foreman.

What was once an aversion became an obsession.

More than 30 years on, the Marmion resident’s dedication to mentoring Australia’s track talent has earned her a Medal of the Order of Australia.

Stirringly, it’s a title she shares with Wally, who received the distinction in 2003.

She recalled the former WAIS administrator and ABC commentator was “very proud” at the time.

And now that she had followed suit 15 years later, she was “pretty happy”, “surprised” and “honoured”.

“I didn’t expect it… it’s one of those things – everyone else gets them,” she said.

At age 61, her passion is fuelled by an appreciation of a coach’s power to make a difference in an athlete’s life.

Foreman has been the national junior hurdles coach since 1995 and a high performance coach since 1989, flying around the country at her own cost to meet her commitments.

She also mentors athletes locally through UWA and Athletics WA.

Lyn Foreman in training with Canberra hurdler Anna Leszczynska.

“Since taking it on those many years ago, I’ve come to realise that it’s one of things… where in everyone’s life there’s either a teacher or a coach who’s had an impact,” she said.

“If I have helped one person then I have given back to the sport that I’ve taken from.

“If I’ve done more than that, then I’m hoping I would have made a difference.”

As a competitor, the tenacious trainer set out to prove her doubters wrong after she was informed she didn’t have the physical make-up for sprinting.

Foreman rose to break the Australian and New Zealand 400m hurdles record, claiming her first national title in 1975 before winning three straight from 1979 to 1981.

She stamped herself as one of the world’s best at the 1980 IAAF World Championships in the Netherlands where she came seventh in the final.

“The fact that I didn’t have, physiologically, what it took for the event… I was told I wouldn’t be a sprinter and then I competed for Australia,” she said.

“It took me nine years to do it.

“And it’s a message I carry through to the athletes I coach.

“I would say 90 per cent of the athletes I coach are physically better than what I ever was.

“But I had something a little different, I had that stick ability… I just kept going.”

With that in mind, it prompts a particularly nasty question: which of the two disciplines – coaching or competing – does she consider the most satisfying?

It’s a question she said she had not been asked before and one that was near-on impossible to answer.

“Both can give you heartache and so much joy, but the joy overrides the heartache,” she reflected.

“They’re both different journeys.

“I’ve been coaching longer and I coached to higher level than I competed at.

“Competing still has very special places in my heart.”

Lyn Foreman in a handover with athlete Allison Nankivell during the Queen’s Baton Relay in the lead up to the Commonwealth Games.

Foreman described coaching as “dealing with people and their emotions at the most stressful of times”.

The biggest obstacle was “dealing with their disappointment and getting them to pick themselves up, dust themselves down and get on with the next challenge”.

Being on the track provided her a sense of solace, particularly after the sudden death of her legendary husband in 2006.

Despite the grief, she did not delay in returning to coaching.

“The hardest time was when you walk into your own home and they’re not there,” she said.

“It (coaching) was the only thing I felt normal doing because I was on my own on the field and surrounded by people doing what you normally do… there’s some wonderful people in sport.”

Foreman is currently training athletes for the world junior titles and the Youth Olympics, while keeping an eye on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.