Sixty-one-year-old Paul Narracott concedes some of his patients are surprised when they discover their mild-mannered dentist ‘waddling’ along the corridor is widely considered one of Australia’s greatest 100-metre sprinters.
His record on the track was impressive, with many highlights.
Paul had high expectations heading into the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games. He thought he had a slim chance of winning a medal in the blue riband 100-metres event on the track.
Those expectations were well-founded. He had finished seventh at the 1983 World Championships in Helsinki, becoming the first Australian since Hec Hogan at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics to compete in a world-class 100-metres final.
Paul had also run under 10 seconds, albeit with hand-timing in Brisbane in 1984. It’s not in the record books because from 1977 sprints had to be electronically timed to be official.
“It was nice to have done that. At that particular point in time, I was probably in the form of my life and I guess the coaching staff would say that’s what we expected you to do. It’s probably where you’ve got to be if you’re going to be running for Australia at the Olympics in men’s sprinting.”
Another indicator of his good form was his win over Carl Lewis in a 60-metres sprint before the Olympics.
Six months later at the Olympics, he made it to the quarter-finals in the 100 and 200-metres.
It probably needs to be pointed out that to make it that far is a significant achievement in the most contested event at the Olympics.
Paul won six National 100-metres titles, the first in 1977.
He found himself back in the news just last month following the run by Sydney’s Rohan Browning in which Browning broke the 10-second barrier, albeit wind-assisted.
Having broken the 10-second barrier, Browning joined a select group of Australian athletes which included Paul.
Patrick Johnson did it three times, but only his 9.93 in 2003 was considered legal and remains the only time officially recorded by an Australian under 10 seconds.
Paul was one of the first track and field scholarship holders at the AIS, effectively paving the way for the likes of Patrick.
“It’s a small club in Australia. To do it is great. I wished I had done it at the Olympics but it didn’t happen,” Paul said.
“Over a career there are lots of downs, lots of bad days, and a few good days. I think at the end of your career it’s nice to look back and have a few bright moments to remember and that run in Brisbane in 1984 was one of those.”
Not content with competing at the Olympics, Worlds and Commonwealth Games in track and field, in 1992 Paul became the first Australian male (or female for that matter) to compete at both the summer and winter Olympic Games.
“I just loved playing sport, so it didn’t matter what it was. An opportunity came up to get involved with the bobsleigh team at the time. I’d seen it on television and I thought, ‘This looks like a lot of fun and you really only get one chance while you’re young’, so I had a crack at it and things fell my way and I was able to get to the 1992 Albertville Winter Olympics. It was great,” said Paul.
It was a remarkable sporting career which is very much in the distant past with his focus these days on his family, his work as a dentist for the past 30 years in Canberra, and bettering his golf handicap.
“Canberra’s a great place to live. It’s a great place to practise dentistry and I’ve been very fortunate to work in a good practice for a long period of time and look after people. I wouldn’t live anywhere else. I wouldn’t practise anywhere else. I’m very content with life. Robyn and I are very settled here in Canberra.”
Despite never going anywhere near the magic 100 metres barrier again, in many respects, he shows no signs of slowing down.