Willy Posma, formerly Wilhelmina Lust, will celebrate her 89th birthday with us this month. But that’s not even close to the most exciting thing we can tell you about this humble lovely lady. Though she cites her family as her greatest life achievement, we would like to brag on her behalf – as this Caravonica Waters resident is also a celebrated Olympian athlete!
Willy grew up in the Netherlands, and was selected as a teenager to compete in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, where she ran fifth in the world!
We asked her to share more of her story with us.
How did you discover your speed and natural talent?
Willy remembers during the war, the local grocer would challenge the children in the street where they lived to have running races, and would then give a prize to the winners. The prizes might be a potato, a loaf of bread or a basic food item for their families. Willy of course had a lot of wins and would take the food home to her family to share.
Who encouraged you to start competing?
Willy’s family quickly recognised her speed and talent so enrolled her in the local Athletics club at around 15 years of age. Willy excelled at hurdles and long jump and started competing at a higher level. She travelled to Germany, Belgium, France and England, competing and winning. She then competed at the World Championships on her way to the Olympics in Helsinki in 1952, where she came 5th in the world for her long jump.
What other career highlights can you recall?
In later years Willy’s Athletics Club named their clubhouse after her – ‘Willy Lust Atletiekbaan – De Laatste Horde’ which translates in English to ‘Willy Lust Athletic Track – The Last Hurdle’. She was unable to attend the unveiling, but returned at a later date to attend a reunion with her club friends where she was honoured by the local Mayor.
What else can you tell us about your upbringing?
Willy remembers living in the town of Zaandam in the Netherlands, and tagging along behind her grandfather who maintained the gardens in the local reserve. She was very fond of him, as she was of all her family. She also remembers ice skating in winter on the frozen canal outside her home and canoeing in the summer.
How did you meet your husband?
Willy remembers first setting eyes on Jan, her future husband, whilst she was at training at the age of 16. Willy and her club mates were surprised to spot a handsome man ride past on his bike and she remembers he had a lovely bicycle. Jan was also sporty, played soccer and was very good at gymnastics. He even helped Willy with her coaching, so they had a lot in common. Although they went out for a short time at that young age, they parted ways, but eventually got back together when Willy was about 20 years old.
What made you decide to move to Australia?
Willy’s brother (also named Jan) was working in Indonesia when he visited Australia. He liked Australia so much, he returned to Holland and convinced their brother Dirk, Willy and Jan to move to Australia with him. Willy’s father would only allow it if she were married, so Willy and Jan married 10 days before they set out for the 6-week boat journey to Melbourne, Australia. Willy and Jan had contacts in Cairns so travelled there by train where they commenced work on a dairy farm in Kairi, near Tinaroo. They later farmed Tobacco and many different vegetables. Willy had two children, Margriet and Reinout and later a third child, Ingrid.
What attracted you to farming?
Willy and Jan both loved being outdoors so it was an easy choice to become farmers, and they loved being on the land. They were basically together 24 hours a day, and so it was a huge shock when after 47 years of marriage, Jan passed away 20 years ago.
Even though Willy has lived in Australia for 67 years, she has never lost her Dutch accent. She loves Australia, but has very fond memories of her time in Holland with her friends and family. Once Willy had moved on from her athletic career, she dedicated her time to her own family and was a wonderful wife and a lovely caring mother. Hence her seeing this as her greatest life achievement!