Skip to Content
Department of Premier and Cabinet

David Francis Lean



David Francis Lean (Member 1993)

b. 22 August 1935

Running laps at the Launceston Grammar oval at night on his own laid the foundation for a very short but quite remarkable athletics career for David Lean who became the first Tasmanian to win a track and field gold medal at the Empire Games.

Leaving school at the end of 1953 Lean was selected for his State to compete at the national titles in the 440 yard hurdles. He won the final in a very fast time and was selected to compete for his country in Vancouver at the 1954 Empire Games. On 31 July 1954 he won his heat of the 440 yard hurdles, shattering the Canadian and Empire Games records with a time of 52.3 seconds. Three days later he won the gold medal, and was also a member of the two Australian relay teams which won bronze. He became a national and state hero just eight months after leaving school.

Lean, as a result of this international success, was awarded an athletics scholarship to attend the University of Michigan and competed successfully in many parts of the United States.

Selected for the 1956 Melbourne Olympics he finished 5th in the final of the 400 metres hurdles but gained a place in the 4x400 metres relay where Australia finished second to the United States. Lean's silver was Tasmania's first Olympic medal.

In 1958 he finished 2nd in the Cardiff Commonwealth Games 440 yards hurdles to Gert Potgeiter of South Africa. Both broke the existing world record.

Lean retired soon after to concentrate on his studies gaining a PhD in economics from the University of Michigan. He married an American and lives in Washington D.C.