Robert de Castella

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Robert de Castella AO, MBE
Robert de Castella 1983.jpg
Robert de Castella in 1983
Personal information
Full nameFrancois Robert de Castella
Born (1957-02-27) 27 February 1957 (age 65)
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Height1.80 m (5 ft 11 in)
Weight65 kg (143 lb)
Country Australia
SportLong-distance running
ClubOld Xaverians, Glenhuntly Athletics Club, Melbourne
Mazda Optimists Track Club

Francois Robert "Rob" de Castella AO, MBE (born 27 February 1957) is an Australian former world champion marathon runner.

De Castella is widely known as "Deek" or "Deeks"[1] to the Australian public, and "Tree" to his competitors due to his thick legs and inner calm. He holds the Oceanic record for the marathon.

Early life[edit]

De Castella is of French and Swiss-French descent. His family were part of both the French nobility and Swiss nobility.[2] He was born in Melbourne, Victoria, the eldest of seven children. Sport was a way of life in his family – his father Rolet ran marathons in his 1950s. His mother Anne was a state-level tennis player. His brother Nicholas, took part in four World Cross Country Championships, whereas brother Anthony competed in running at club level for more than 25 years.[3] Rob de Castella was an outstanding track athlete as a teenager and trained under Pat Clohessy from the age of 11.[4]

Marathon career[edit]

1981 Fukuoka Marathon[edit]

De Castella first came to international attention when he won the 1981 Fukuoka Marathon in a time of 2:08:18, which was the fastest time recorded for an out-and-back course. It was not initially known to be a world best time, because his time was 5 seconds slower than the time set by Alberto Salazar in the 1981 New York City Marathon. It later emerged that the New York course was about 148 metres short. De Castella's time was later ratified as the world record.[4]

1982 Commonwealth Games Marathon[edit]

De Castella was the favourite to win the marathon at the 1982 Commonwealth Games in Brisbane. At the start of the race, Tanzanians Gidamis Shahanga and Juma Ikangaa raced to the lead and were 50 m ahead of the pack after five minutes. After the 20 km mark, this gap had widened to several hundred meters. At the halfway Mark, De Castella developed diarrhoea.[5] In 100% humidity, he let go of his bowels and signalled for some damp towels from his crew members.[6] By the 23 km mark, Ikangaa had taken the lead from his compatriot, with de Castella in the main pack some 250 m behind but closing. De Castella passed the now-tiring Shahanga at the 38 km mark, and in the next kilometre drew level with Ikangaa and then took the lead. However, Ikangaa was not done yet, and he re-took the lead slightly. The duel continued for the remainder of the race. Eventually, de Castella pulled away and won by 80 metres in a time of 2:09:18, 12 seconds ahead of Ikangaa. Briton Mike Gratton finished third in 2:12:06, and Shahanga faded to finish 6th. The race finished on the streets of Brisbane, not in the main stadium.[4][7]

1983 IAAF World Championships[edit]

World champion Robert De Castella (r.) receives congratulations from 3rd-place finisher Waldemar Cierpinski (DDR) in Helsinki 1983

De Castella won Australia's first athletic World Championships gold medal when he won the marathon in 1983, beating Ethiopian Kebede Balcha by 24 seconds and Olympic champion Waldemar Cierpinski by 34 seconds.[8]

1983 Rotterdam Marathon[edit]

De Castella won the 1983 Rotterdam Marathon in 2:08:37, defeating a deep field that included the previously unbeaten Alberto Salazar and Carlos Lopes.[4] The race was also televised live back to Australia.[citation needed] De Castella's time was, at that point, the fourth fastest in history.[9]

1984 Olympic Games[edit]

De Castella was the favourite for the 1984 Summer Olympics marathon.[4] He ran comfortably in the main group until about 33 kilometres, when he slowed down to drink water. At the same time, the leading runners picked up speed and de Castella suddenly found himself out of contention. He accelerated during the final kilometres to finish fifth.

1986 Commonwealth Games[edit]

De Castella defended his Commonwealth Games title in Edinburgh, winning in 2:10:15.[10]

Cross country running[edit]

In addition to marathon running, de Castella was also an accomplished cross country runner. He won the Australian national title once as a junior and four times as a senior, along with five other podium finishes. He competed eight times at the World Cross Country Championships from 1977 to 1986, finishing in the top 20 five times.[10]

Post career and life[edit]

De Castella failed to finish the marathon at the 1987 World Athletics Championships.[10] He represented Australia at the 1988 Seoul and 1992 Barcelona Olympics, competing in four straight Olympic Games. He finished in the top ten in three Olympics, but never won a medal.[1]

He retired from the sport in 1993 and lives in Canberra, together with his wife Theresa and four children.[11] Previously he was married to the former champion triathlete Gaylene Clews.[4][12] He lost his family home, along with many of his medals and other citations, in the 2003 Canberra bushfires.[13] Choosing to move rather than rebuild, he now lives in a nearby suburb. He later helped with the taskforce established for the reconstruction of areas worst affected by the fires.[11]

From 1990 to 1995, de Castella was the director of the Australian Institute of Sport[12] and subsequently became executive director of Focus On You, a company focusing on corporate and community health and fitness.[12] He has also been actively involved in other organisations dedicated to encouraging healthy living for both children and adults.[14] He also fronts the Indigenous Marathon Project. In 2014 he was made an Officer of the Order of Australia at the Australia Day honours.

In 2003, de Castella launched "deeks", a specialist chain of grain and gluten free bakeries & cafés.[15] In 2004, he earned a black belt in the traditional Okinawan Goju Ryu; he has also been part of a long-running advertising campaign for the multi-vitamin tablet "Centrum".[11]



As of May 2009, de Castella still held the following records:[10]

  • Australian U20 10,000 m – 28'54"4 on 16 December 1976 in Melbourne
  • Australian 20 km Track – 58.37.2 on 17 April 1982 in Rome
  • Australian 1 hr – 20,516 m on 17 April 1982 in Rome
  • Australian All Comers Marathon – 2h 09'18" in Brisbane Commonwealth Games 1982
  • Australian Marathon – 2h 07'51" at the 1986 Boston Marathon

Other awards[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Evans, Hilary; Gjerde, Arild; Heijmans, Jeroen; Mallon, Bill; et al. "Rob de Castella". Olympics at Sports Reference LLC. Archived from the original on 18 April 2020.
  2. ^ "Fribourg : Le château de Delley".
  3. ^ Ant de Castella. Hawthorn Tri Club
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Benyo, Richard & Henderson, Joe (2002). Running Encyclopedia. Human Kinetics. pp. 86–87. ISBN 978-0-7360-3734-1.
  5. ^ "The day de Castella stopped the nation with marathon victory in 1982". ABC News. 14 April 2018. Retrieved 31 May 2022.
  6. ^ Pentony, Luke; Hull, Quentin (14 April 2018). "The day de Castella stopped the nation with marathon victory in 1982". ABC News.
  7. ^ Wilson, Lorraine (1984). Robert de Castella. Thomas Nelson Publishing. ISBN 0170064492.
  8. ^ Wünsche, Wolfgang (1984). The Heroes of Racetracks.
  9. ^ "Robert de Castella wins". Reading Eagle. 10 April 1983. Retrieved 26 August 2010.
  10. ^ a b c d e "Robert de Castella – Profile". Athletics Australia. Archived from the original on 21 August 2012.
  11. ^ a b c "Rob de Castella – Commonwealth Games Gold Medallist & Former Head of the AIS". IMG. Archived from the original on 16 March 2012. Retrieved 26 August 2010.
  12. ^ a b c d "Robert de Castella MBE". National Australia Day Council. Retrieved 7 February 2022.
  13. ^ Nicholson, Brendan; Crabb, Annabel; Gordon, Josh; Guerrera, Orietta (20 January 2003). "Disaster in the capital". The Age. Retrieved 26 August 2010.
  14. ^ "AIS Alumni". Robert de Castella. Australian Institute of Sport. Archived from the original on 6 March 2011. Retrieved 26 August 2010.
  15. ^ "deeks bakery and cafe". The story of deeks. deeks bakery and cafe. Archived from the original on 15 October 2009. Retrieved 26 August 2010.
  16. ^ "Robert Francois de Castella MBE". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Retrieved 27 January 2014.
  17. ^ "Robert de Castella". Sport Australia Hall of Fame. Retrieved 25 September 2020.
  18. ^ "Robert Francois de Castella". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Retrieved 27 January 2014.
  19. ^ "Robert Francois de Castella". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Retrieved 27 January 2014.
  20. ^ Best of the Best. Australian Institute of Sport
  21. ^ "Officer (AO) in the general division of the Order of Australia at the 2014 Australia Day honours" (PDF). Official Secretary to the Governor-General of Australia. 26 January 2014. p. 18. Retrieved 27 January 2014.

External links[edit]

Preceded by Men's Marathon World Record Holder
6 December 1981 – 21 October 1984
Succeeded by