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Guelph loses a coaching legend

Peter Manning coached hundreds of Guelph track and field athletes over almost 50 years

If you were involved in track and field in Guelph the past 50 years or so you likely benefited from the knowledge and kindness of Peter Manning.

Manning coached some of the greatest runners Canada has ever produced, including many Olympians, over his 60-year career, but loved coaching young up-and-coming local runners the most.

Be it the old Guelph Oaks sports club, the Guelph Track and Field Club or local high schoolers and university runners, it was the kids that gave him the most satisfaction.

The tall, gangly Englishman was easy to spot at track and field events, arms folded, patiently watching the runners on the track, offering pointers and encouragement in his thick English accent.

“Coaching national team members is very rewarding, but it is coaching kids at the local level that really gets me,” said Manning prior to his induction into the Guelph Sports Hall of Fame in 2010. “To be able to not only help young people excel in sports, but also in life brings me great joy.”

Manning, a member of the University of Guelph Sports Hall of Fame, the Guelph Sports Hall of Fame, Athletics Ontario Hall of Fame and Athletics Canada Hall of Fame, died Sunday. He was 90.

“I always used to think it was the ego side of watching them beat other people that was the best part,” Manning said in an interview eight years ago. “These days I realize I get a great deal of delight improving those at the school-aged level.

“I get a lot of satisfaction working with local kids and watching them grow and watching them succeed.”

Manning began coaching in his native England before immigrating to Canada in 1957, where he established his career as an engineer, living in Montreal and Winnipeg before settling in Guelph in 1974.

In recent years he called Belwood home.

After arriving in Guelph he coached local runners Rachelle Campbell, Margaret McGowan, Yvonne Saunders and Joyce Yakubowich to an eighth-place finish in the 4×400-metre relay at the 1976 Olympic Games setting a Canadian record.

He also served as one of Canada’s sprint coaches that year, in addition to Los Angeles in 1984 and Seoul 1988.

He was Canada’s head sprint coach for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and continued working with the country’s relay teams up to the 1996 games in Atlanta.

In 1974, Manning was named Athletics Canada’s Coach of the Year.

A heart attack slowed him down in later years, making him more suited to a round of golf than being trackside at a meet. But he still kept in touch. He still coached. He still mentored.

Manning once pointed out that coaching was always something he did out of love, pointing out to a reporter that the only money he ever earned from coaching was $1,200 he got from Athletics Canada as a reward for getting three runners into the finals at the 1976 Olympics.

He is survived by his wife of 64 years, Myra, three daughters, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

A private family service will be held, followed by a celebration of life at a later date.