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Colin Coates, 2009. Image courtesy of Bjarte Hetland


April 4th, 1946
Richmond, Melbourne, Australia

1968, 1972, 1976, 1980, 1984, 1988

World Allround Speed Skating Championships
1968, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1983, 1984

World Sprint Speed Skating Championships for Men
1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1978, 1979, 1980

Best result 21st in 1972

COLIN VICTOR COATES WAS BORN on 4 April 1946 in Richmond, Melbourne, Victoria. He represented Australia in a record 6 consecutive Winter Olympics commencing 1968 in Grenoble, France. He competed 13 times in the World Allround Speed Skating Championships for Men (1968, 1972-81, 1983-84), and 7 times in the World Sprint Speed Skating Championships for Men (1972-5, 1978-80). His best Allround result was 11th in 1974, and his best result for the Sprint was 21st in 1972.

Approaching his fourth Olympics in 1979, Coates was regarded as one of the world's fastest men on ice. He finished tenth in the 5000m event at Innsbruck in 1976, down 23.6 secs on the winner, but better than 21 others in the event. Two weeks later he came fourth in the World Championships. He lived and trained at Heerenveen in the Netherlands, then a familiar sight swooping round the town's skating rink for hours every day, and working part-time as a plumber and decorator. In 1979, Geoff Henke, general manager of the Australian Winter Olympics team, had said publicly: "Colin had a chance to join the Dutch national team and race for Holland but he refused. If he had the proper attention, finances and coaching, he could be the world champion but he wanted to race for Australia." The Australian Olympic Federation had begun to assist Coates by then and he was is in line for an Olympic scholarship. Coates also helped to train Australia's Olympic possibles in New Zealand in 1979. [452]

Coates' became a well-known sporting identity in Europe compared to his homeland. He said on a visit home in the 1980s "that sometimes the lack of recognition here has got me down...still over in Europe everyone knows me, particularly in the Scandinavian countries". [453] He had a strong fan following in those countries where tens of thousands watch speed skating competitions, but his career was almost ended by a horrible skiing accident in the Italian Alps in April 1981. He fell 25m onto an ice ledge breaking both his arms, his jaw, left shoulder and nose. Ten pins were inserted into his arms and although he was advised to take a long rest from skating, he was back nineteen days later, [453] and skated in two more Olympics.

Coates was also a 14-foot dinghy champion for Victoria on more than 10 occasions; a competent ice hockey player; and a cyclist who was also invited to compete in the 1979 US national cycling championships. [453]

Colin Coates, Men's Speed Skating,1976-88
Distance Time Date Location
500 m
1,000 m 1:19.47 1976-03-13
1,500 m 2:00.79 1979-01-26 Davos
5,000 m 7:12.95 1984-01-0 Inzell
10,000 m 14:41.88 1988-02-21 Calgary
Source: Sports Reference
01. Historical Notes

02. Citation Details

Ross Carpenter, 'Coates, Colin', Legends of Australian Ice, Melbourne, Australia,, accessed online .

03. Select Bibliography

Australian Ice Racing (AIR) Roll of Honour

04. Citations
Citations | 1 - 280 | 281-on |
G A L L E R YArrows at right scroll the images
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Article: 'Heading for the Winter Olympics'

Australian Women's Weekly, 1979

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Article: 'Colin Coates: Skating's Just a Way of Life'

Canberra Times, 1980