Australians took up ice-hockey at an early date, they built a rink in Melbourne around 1905, a country match against a US navy team was played in 1907 and regular club and state championships have been arranged since 1909. Most Australian speedskaters were reared in such hockey rinks. The Australian skating federation was formed in 1931 and joined the ISU in 1932. Their first international participant was George Kennedy, who entered the olympic games in Garmisch-Partenkirchen 1936 with a 29th place in the 500 m as his best result.
The next Australian to take on the world was Colin Hickey. He went to the OG at Bislett, Oslo 1952 without impressing more than Kennedy had, but from 1955, he travelled regularly to Europe for winter training and improved his results dramatically. Hickey was Australia's first great skater. He qualified for the 10000 m in world championships twice, 1956 and 1959, both in Oslo, both times his result was 11th place overall. In the OG, he has two 7th places from Misurina 1956, and at the world championship 1960, he became the first and as yet only medallist of his country with his 3rd place in the 500 m.
From 1957, speedskating in Australia was organized by the Australian Ice Racing Council, and since then, Australian skaters trying various more or less desperate means to stay alive were regular winter guests at European skating venues. Colin Coates of Melbourne, Victoria, probably is the greatest Australian talent ever. He made his debut at the OG in Grenoble 1968 at about the same competitive level as Kennedy and Hickey at their debuts. He returned 1972 and made his breakthrough the year after with a 13th place in the world championship. He reached the final cut in 7 world championships in a row with a 11th place in 1974 as his best. Twice, he was 4th in the 10000 m, and he scored an olympic point with his 6th place in the same distance at the Innsbruck OG 1976. He made history with his olympic career, which spanned 6 consecutive games, an unique winter-olympic record. In his time, Australia and New Zealand arranged memorable country-matches at Lake Ida in New Zealand, starting in 1973 and going on biannually until 1979, Australia won all 4 matches.
Towards the end of his career, Coates took up coaching and produced a team of talented skaters. The best were Michael Richmond of Adelaide, South Australia, who reached 15th place twice in the sprint world championships with a 5th place in the 1000 m 1986 as his best single achievement and 5 times qualified his country for a two man quota in the sprint championship, and Danny Kah, also of Adelaide, who became Australia's third great skater, possibly the greatest. He made his mark with a 7th place in the 1500m at the 1985 junior world championship, entered his first senior world championship 1986 and made his breakthrough 1988 with a 9th place overall and a 4th place in the 5000m as his best single achievement. He was #9 again in 1990 and topped his career in Heerenveen 1991 with a 7th place overall and some memorable races against home favourites Thomas Bos and Leo Visser, beating Bos by only 1/100 of a second in the 1500 m.
In 1978, ISU arranged their first short-track championships, with an Australian winner at that, but it signalled the demise of Australian long track speedskating. No longer was it necessary to spend months and fortunes at the other side of the globe to be able to fight for medals, and since 1994, no Australian has appeared in the championships. The only "long track" in existence in Australia was a highland lake near Mt. Buffalo in Victoria state. The lake was used by skaters for training since the 1940s when the ice-conditions permitted, and sometimes when they didn't permit as well. But when the international skater Eddie Spicer (participant in the world championship 1957 and 1958) drowned there in 1997, skating was prohibited. Things will have to materialize in the facilities sector before the two Colins, the Mike and the Danny will get any successors.
Some supplements from Marnix Koolhaas that might be interesting:
In 1952, the first Australians came to Europe for training for the OWG. Except for wellknown Hickey, also a certain mr. C. Ashworth was present. At least he participated in a Trondheim pre-ECh. competition. The National Ice Skating Association of Australia was founded in 1931 and joined the ISU in 1932. The speed-skating-dedicated Australian Amateur Ice Racing Council joined the ISU in 1957 and has represented Australian speed-skaters ever since.
In 1973 Australia beated New Zealand in the first long-track speed-skating country-match ('test-match'), ever held at the southern hemiphere, at the famous Lake Ida. The Australian team, consisting of Victor Bagdon, Eddie Spicer, John Stockdale and Colin Coates, scored 874.578 against New Zealand (Tony Tinga, Stuart Baird, Jan Havenaar and Robert Montgomery) 901.549. This countrymatch was repeated outdoors in the years 1975, 1977 and 1979, all years Australia beating New Zealand. In 1979 the Australian team consisted of: Senior: Rodney Bates, Shane Warren, Michael Richmond (!), Ken Stewart; Intermediate: Paul Williams, Phil Wilton; ladies: V. Doratis, J. Baber. Very unfortunate, this countrymatch (now for the Tasman-trophy) nowadays is only skated indoors. For the future maybe Carla Zijlstra will have the Australian long-track-skating revive?
And don't forget the fastest man ever in the 10 meters dash: It's very unfortunate that it's never been recorded officially, but I don't think any skater has been faster on the first 10 meter than Lynch!