Vale Olympian Neale Lavis: 'A talented horseman and wonderful fella'

A boy from Bodalla who grew up to conquer Olympic rivals is mourned this week.

In 2017, Cath Lawler of Cadgee, Neale Lavis and his wife Velma of Braidwood stand by a plaque commemorating Mr Lavis' sporting success. Photo: Laurelle Pacey.

In 2017, Cath Lawler of Cadgee, Neale Lavis and his wife Velma of Braidwood stand by a plaque commemorating Mr Lavis' sporting success. Photo: Laurelle Pacey.

Equestrian Neale Lavis was part of the Australian gold-medal winning Olympic team which took glory in Rome in 1960 and he also won an individual silver medal at the same games.

He died on Sunday, aged 89.

Life member of the Bega Showjumping Club, Richard Otton, has paid tribute to the man who helped put Australia's equestrian talent on the world map.

"What a wonderful fella he was," Mr Otton said.

Mr Otton and Mr Lavis "knocked around the place" together when they were younger.

"He was a horsey fellow, eight years older than me," Mr Otton said.

"I looked up to him like buggery."

From the roughest of horse work, Mr Lavis transferred to dressage, cross country and jumping - which made him a true legend in Mr Otton's eyes.

"He was talented in all rough horse work and how he could change over to what he did was marvelous," Mr Otton said.

Mr Lavis had two favourite horses who carried him to success - first Bennelong and then Mirrabooka, which he rode in Rome.

Mr Otton heard the sad news during the final of the Bega Showjumping Cup on Sunday, via a phone call from Eurobodalla Shire horsewoman Cath Lawler, a great friend to Mr Lavis.

"He was a terrific horseman and stockman - a dinky-di Australian," Mr Otton said.

He understood Mr Lavis told Mrs Lawler: "I have had a great life."

That was tough for an old horseman to hear.

"I came to water a little after," Mr Otton said.

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