Sadly the first man to win the Stawell Gift from scratch - Jean Louis Ravelomanantsoa passed away in Lyon, France on Tuesday 27th September.
Born 30th March 1943, in Antananarivo, Madagascar, Ravelo (as he was affectionately known) was a three time Olympian, his country's greatest ever sprinter and to this day still holds the Malagasy national 100m record of 10.18sec.
At the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, Ravelo made the 100m semi finals where he recorded his career best time of 10.18sec.
At the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, he again made the 100m semi finals.
Standing only 165cm he was a brilliant starter, equalling the world 60 yards world record of 5.9sec in 1971.
In 1972 he ran 10.0sec (hand held) for the 100m and was at one stage, rated the second fastest man in the world behind the Soviet Union’s Olympic Gold medallist Valeriy Borzov.
Living and studying in the USA in the mid 70’s, Ravelo was invited to the 1975 Stawell Gift carnival to compete in the Carlton & United Breweries World Sprint title as well as the Gift where he became the 34th athlete in Stawell’s history to be allocated the mark of scratch.
Ravelo only arrived in Australia on the Wednesday before the Gift. As no previous scratchman had ever made it to a Gift final, odds of 100/1 were offered on Ravelo.
The heavily backed favourite (10/1 to 6/4) for the 1975 Gift was the Monty Hirst trained Peter Marks (7.00m) who won heat 21 in the equal fastest time of the day, 12.0secs.
In the next heat (22) Ravelo stormed down the track, also in 12.0sec.
In the 24th heat, Warren Edmonson won his heat in 12.1sec. Edmonson was off 0.50m and Ravelo was of the view he could not concede half a metre to Edmonson.
On the Monday morning, Ravelo stormed out of the Ararat motel where he was staying with Warren Edmonson and John Toleman (manager) and went for a walk. He wasn't happy, believing Toleman was favouring Edmonson.
Toleman found him walking along the side of the road and persuaded Ravelo to get into the car.
Despite the heavy rain over the weekend that had affected the track, Ravelo brilliantly won the second semi-final (12.0s) beating, among others current VAL coach John Henry.
When Warren Edmonson was run out by Murray McGregor in the fourth semi-final in 12.2, Ravelo’s attitude changed. With Edmonson out of the final, Ravelo was very confident he could now win the final.
The pre-race favourite Peter Marks won the fifth semi-final in 12.4sec. Marks' stablemate, Joe Logan won the first semi in 12.1 while South Australian Paul Dawe won the third semi in 12.3sec.
With the fastest time of the five semis, Ravelo became the new Gift favourite at 2/5.
In the greatest run ever in a Stawell Gift final, Ravelo stormed through the middle on a rain soaked track running 12.0s for the third time to win by about 30cm from Peter Marks and Murray McGregor.
He never competed again at Stawell. Ravelo made his first trip back to Stawell in 25 years when in 2000 he attended a “Hall of Fame’ dinner at the Rod Laver Arena.
In 2006 Ravelo’s 1975 Stawell Gift final was voted the greatest performance in Stawell’s 125 year history.
Ravelo earned an MBA from the United States International University in San Diego. After receiving his graduate degree, Ravelo moved to Kenya before relocating to Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire. Ravelo remained in Abidjan working as a health care facility loan officer for the African Development Bank until his retirement. He then returned to his native Madagascar.
Ravelo, passed away after a battle with prostate cancer. He is survived by his wife Ingrid, two daughters, Fabienne and Fluer, and five grandchildren.
Thanks to Gary Watt and his Stawell Gift Almanac, which is where I was able to glean the information to compile most of this article.