Joe Askew and his brother Mark were from a gypsy heritage. In Australia everyone let the 6 foot tall 100 kg brothers lead all the way and then they would out sprint them at the finish because they were too slow. He was known as Joe the slugger and he fancied himself as a 20,000 meter and marathon man.
After shifting from the South Coast of Australia to Perth, West Australia in late 1984 some athletes decided to also follow me and make the move. Six months prior to the 1986 Adelaide World Championships Joe arrived and told me he had come to train to win the World 20,000 meter road title.
The Adelaide road circuit was tight with bends the other way, I told Joe he may win a World title but it wouldn’t be over 20,000 meters. He was too big and heavy to keep running out of the tight corners, it would be to hard for him to keep his wheels in good enough nick for the end of the race. Well after experimenting and playing around we settled on the sprints as a good option for him and there was an opening for a sprinter/middle distance skater. In those days it was four maximum per team and three of those four skaters could start each event.
A very obnoxious local South Australian named Micheal Stone trained on the track for three years, wanting to win the road time trial. The Italian men had dominated the road time trial since 1936, so 50 years of history. Stone thought he knew too much & was funded by the South Australian institute of sport and advised by a guy named Noonan. The Federation said South Australia put the money in to build the track so he had to be in the team as he was the only Sports Institute funded skater in Australia at the time.
Meanwhile as Stone trained for his home track glory I had Joe training several times a day doing things here and there. Some days we would go down and he would just do a start and then a couple of hours rest then a few hundred meter bursts. We had different sections of the track simulated and marked out in car parks, school yards, roads etc. Each place we could use at a certain time of the day and sometimes had to dodge police. There was no bank track or road circuit to train on
The West Australian State Championships were on about 3 months before the World Championships. Joe done his first official time trial at the state champs and a 16 year old Adam Arndell clocked a faster time than him.
We continued training at night in the dark on a marked out radius bend the same as the Adelaide track on a Morley shopping center car park. The camber slopped away from the inside, so the bend was actually more difficult than the real bend in Adelaide and we practised taking two steps in without pausing. Meanwhile Stone claimed you had to roll two steps going in as he knew the track and according to him you would lose too much speed stepping in.
Come the Australian Champs ten days prior to the Worlds and Joe done only his second official time trial and was 2nd to Stone. Ten days later I told Joe he could win a medal, he bellowed back at me that he was going to win the gold.
On the push wheel he had his special underwater submarine signal beaker 1 mm coating wheel devised by our scientist manager Alan Carpenter. It gave grip for the one tight corner. Joe took the two steps in and won the World Title. He beat current track & road World record holder Oscar Galliazzo & Guiseppe De Persio who had to stand on the podium alongside his intimidating figure.
It was his first race at Worlds and only 3rd time trial at a championships, the born again Christian had won a World title. He never finished another race at Worlds. In the 1,500 meter heats a Frenchman grabbed him by the hips with both hands, Joe sent an elbow back and the Frenchman lost 2 teeth and Joe was disqualified from the rest of the World Championships.
10 years later he was the Australian heavy weight Boxing Champion. In his last fight he broke his fist on tough as teak Australian based Yugoslavian Bob Milishovic in the first round and it ended in a 6 round draw. Bob went on to compete in elimination fights to decide heavy weight contenders for the World title.
Belief is a wonderful thing. Joe would say God was going to help him win, I think some wash over from the great Bobby Kaiser. Others would laugh and say the only God was a little 5 foot 3 inch guy with blonde hair (yours truly). I was a bit smarter, I would say if you have both God and me on your side you have the Worlds best two.
Cheers Bill Begg