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Robert de Castella

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Sport  Long-distance running
Education  Xavier College
Weight  65 kg
Height  1.80 m
Name  Robert Castella

Robert de Castella Robert de Castella
Full name  Francois Robert de Castella
Born  27 February 1957 (age 58) (1957-02-27) Melbourne, Australia
Club  Old Xaverians, Glenhuntly Athletics Club, Melbourne Mazda Optimists Track Club
Spouse  Gaylene Clews, Theresa de Castella
Books  De Castella on Running, Jog with Deek: A Guide to Training and Fitness for All Runners

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Francois Robert "Rob" de Castella (born 27 February 1957) is an Australian former world champion marathon runner.


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De Castella is widely known as "Deek" or "Deeks" to the Australian public, and "Tree" to his competitors due to his thick legs and inner calm. He holds the Oceanian record for the marathon.

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Early life

Robert de Castella Interview With Australian Marathon Icon Rob de Castella

De Castella is of Swiss-French descent. He was born in Melbourne, Victoria, the eldest of seven children. Sport was a way of life in his family – his father Rolet ran marathons in his fifties. His mother Anne was a state-level tennis player. His brother Nicholas, took part in four World Cross Country Championships, whereas brother Anthony competed in running at club level for more than 25 years. Rob de Castella was an outstanding track athlete as a teenager and trained under Pat Clohessy from the age of 14.

1981 Fukuoka Marathon

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De Castella first came to international attention when he won the 1981 Fukuoka Marathon in a time of 2:08:18, which was the fastest time recorded for an out-and-back course. It was not initially known to be a world best time, because his time was 5 seconds slower than the time set by Alberto Salazar in the 1981 New York City Marathon. It later emerged that the New York course was about 148 metres short. De Castella's time was later ratified as the world record.

1982 Commonwealth Games Marathon

De Castella was the favourite to win the marathon at the 1982 Commonwealth Games in Brisbane. At the start of the race, Tanzanians Gidamis Shahanga and Juma Ikangaa raced to the lead and were 50 m ahead of the pack after five minutes. After the 20 km mark, this gap had widened to several hundred meters. By the 23 km mark, Ikangaa had taken the lead from his compatriot, with de Castella in the main pack some 250 m behind, but closing. de Castella passed the now tiring Shahanga at the 38 km mark, and in the next kilometre drew level with Ikangaa then took the lead. However Ikangaa was not done yet, and re-took the lead slightly. The duel continued for the remainder of the race. Eventually de Castella pulled away, and won by 80 m in a time of 2:09:18, 12 seconds ahead of Ikangaa. Briton Mike Gratton finished third in 2:12:06, and Shahanga faded to finish 6th. The race finished on the streets of Brisbane, not in the main stadium.

1983 IAAF World Championships

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De Castella won Australia's first athletic World Championships gold medal when he won the marathon in 1983, beating Ethiopian Kebede Balcha by 24 seconds.

1983 Rotterdam Marathon

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De Castella won the 1983 Rotterdam Marathon in 2:08:37, defeating a deep field that included the previously unbeaten Alberto Salazar and Carlos Lopes. The race was also televised live back to Australia. De Castella's time was, at that point, the fourth fastest in history.

1984 Olympic Games

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De Castella was the favourite for the 1984 Summer Olympics marathon. He ran comfortably in the main group until about 33 kilometres, when he slowed down to drink water. At the same time, the leading runners picked up speed and de Castella suddenly found himself out of contention. He accelerated during the final kilometres to finish fifth.

1986 Commonwealth Games

De Castella defended his Commonwealth Games title in Edinburgh, winning in 2:10:15.

Cross country running

In addition to marathon running, de Castella was also an accomplished cross country runner. He won the Australian national title once as a junior and four times as a senior, along with five other podium finishes. He competed eight times at the World Cross Country Championships from 1977 to 1986, finishing in the top 20 five times.

Later career and life

De Castella failed to finish the marathon at the 1987 World Athletics Championships. and never again placed very well in a major marathon. He represented Australia at the 1988 Seoul and 1992 Barcelona Olympics, competing in four straight Olympic Games. He finished in the top ten in three Olympics, but never won a medal.

He retired from the sport in 1993 and lives in Canberra, together with his wife Theresa and four children. Previously he was married to the former champion triathlete Gaylene Clews. He lost his family home, along with many of his medals and other citations, in the 2003 Canberra bushfires. Choosing to move rather than rebuild, he now lives in a nearby suburb. He later helped with the taskforce established for the reconstruction of areas worst affected by the fires.

From 1990 to 1995, de Castella was the director of the Australian Institute of Sport and subsequently became executive director of Focus On You, a company focusing on corporate and community health and fitness. He has also been actively involved in other organisations dedicated to encouraging healthy living for both children and adults. He also fronts the Indigenous Marathon Project. In 2014 he was made an Officer of the Order of Australia at the Australia Day honours.

In 2003, de Castella launched "deeks", a specialist chain of grain and gluten free bakeries & cafés. In 2004, he earned a black belt in the traditional Okinawan Goju Ryu; he has also been part of a long-running advertising campaign for the multi-vitamin tablet "Centrum".


  • 1977 – won the Sydney City to Surf in 41' 12"
  • 1979 – won the Victorian Championship in 2h 14'44" and the Australian marathon title in 2h 13'23"
  • 1980 – 10th in the 1980 Summer Olympics marathon in Moscow, 2h 14'31"; 8th at the Fukuoka Marathon in 2h 10'44"
  • 1981 – won the Fukuoka Marathon in 2h 08'18" (world record from 1981 to 1984)
  • 1981 – won and set fastest time of 40'08" in City to Surf, Sydney. (this time bettered in 1991)
  • 1982 – won the 1982 Commonwealth Games marathon in Brisbane in 2h 09'18"
  • 1983 – won the Rotterdam Marathon in 2h 08'37"
  • 1983 – won the 1983 World Championships in Athletics marathon in Helsinki in 2h 10'03"
  • 1984 – 5th in the Olympic Marathon in Los Angeles
  • 1984 – 3rd in the Chicago Marathon in 2h 09'09"
  • 1985 – 3rd in the Chicago Marathon in 2h 08'48"
  • 1986 – won the 1986 Commonwealth Games marathon in Edinburgh in 2h 10'15"
  • 1986 – won the Boston marathon in 2h 07'51" (personal best)
  • 1987 – won the Great North Run in 1h 02'04"
  • 1988 – 4th in the Tokyo International Marathon in 2h 08'49"
  • 1988 – 8th in the 1988 Summer Olympics marathon in Seoul
  • 1990 – 13th in the 1990 Commonwealth Games marathon
  • 1991 – won the Rotterdam Marathon in 2h 09'42"
  • 1992 – finished 26th in Olympic Marathon, Barcelona
  • Records

    As of May 2009, de Castella still held the following records:

  • Australian U20 10,000 m – 28'54"4 on 16 December 1976 in Melbourne
  • Australian 20 km Track – 58.37.2 on 17 Apr 1982 in Rome
  • Australian 1 hr – 20,516 m on 17 April 1982 in Rome
  • Australian All Comers Marathon – 2h 09'18" in Brisbane Commonwealth Games 1982
  • Australian Marathon – 2h 07'51" at the 1986 Boston Marathon
  • Other awards

  • 1982 – Member of the Order of the British Empire in recognition of service to athletics.
  • 1983 – Australian of the Year
  • 1985 – Sport Australia Hall of Fame
  • 2000 – Australian Sports Medal for significant contribution as a competitor (Athletics).
  • 2001 – Centenary Medal service to the sport of athletics and to sports administration.
  • 2001 – Australian Institute of Sport 'Best of the Best'
  • 2014 – Officer of the Order of Australia for distinguished service to the community through programs promoting children's health and fitness, as a supporter and mentor of young Indigenous men and women, and to marathon running.
  • References

    Robert de Castella Wikipedia