Alana and Ray Boyd ()Alana and Ray Boyd () © Copyright

The first family of athletics

Television might have the Kardashians, but the Commonwealth Games has the Boyds. Australia’s super family took time out of racing to the bathroom in the morning to talk to SPIKES.

Dad Ray – 11-time Australian pole vault champion. Appeared in two Olympic and three Commonwealth Games, winning gold in Brisbane in 1982.

Mum Denise – won eight Commonwealth medals spanning three games, including gold in the 4x100m relay in Christchurch (1974) and in the 200m in Edmonton (1978). She made successive Olympic 200m finals in 1976 and 1980. A 200m lifetime best of 22.35 puts her third on the Australian all-time lists.

Daughter Alana – Australian women's pole vault record holder (4.76m). Appeared at two Olympic Games and two world championships. Following Commonwealth gold in New Delhi in 2010, she will be hoping to become the first woman in history to defend a Commonwealth pole vault crown in Glasgow.

Son Matt – former world youth and world junior pole vault representative, set to make his Commonwealth Games debut in Glasgow. A 5.35m vaulter at his best, he will hope to add a chapter to the Boyd family legacy in Scotland this week.

Okay, Ray and Denise, we'll start at the very beginning. How did you guys first meet?

Ray: "It was the on the athletics bus at the 1973 Pacific Conference Games in Toronto. Being a pole vaulter, we are always last on the bus there was one seat left at the back of the bus and I sat next to Denise. She was just a bit lucky!"

Gifted children: Alana and Matt at the Glasgow 2014 opening ceremony

When you started having children after your career, did it ever occur that may give birth to some very gifted athletes?

Denise: "Not really, it was only when our three kids went to Mooloolaba Primary School on the Sunshine Coast that they started to do pretty well. Between the three of them they held 57 per cent of all the school records. I would hear people saying: 'Tthat’s a Boyd child, they train six days a week'.

"But we never pushed them; they simply wanted to do it. Matt played cricket and soccer up until he was aged 15 or 16. Alana and Jacinta [the Boyd's third child, an 11.49 100m sprinter and 6.64m long jumper, is currently sidelined with chronic fatigue syndrome] both did gymnastics and dance before athletics.

"I remember when asked about their future ambitions at school, all three wrote they wanted to go to the Olympic Games and win a gold medal."

Alana: "We only lived a few hundred yards from school. We were always pestering dad to go out to the school and pull out the high jump bags."

Matt and Alana, what were your first athletics memories?

Matt: "Watching the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and competing in school sports days. It was the best day of my life every year – I loved it."

Alana: "For me seeing framed pictured and a whole heap of newspaper clippings from the days when mum and dad used to compete. I remember thinking dad used to jump pretty high and mum used to run pretty fast."

Do you have a room in the family home that is a shrine to athletics?

Alana: "There is now, but there didn't used to be. Mum and dad used to keep their medals in a broken shoebox. About 15 years ago we the gold medals framed.

"Dad also got an Olympic flag from the Queensland Olympic Committee because mum was the flag bearer for Australia at the 1980 Moscow Olympics [flag bearers carried the Olympic flag rather than national flags because of the boycott]."

Denise and Ray, were you secretly pleased the kids chose to pursue athletics?

Denise: "Not particularly. We initially thought that they’d be compared to us by competing in the same sport. But they’ve all had a great deal of success and we’ve all had a lot of enjoyment watching their success."

Whenever you meet up, do you ever not talk about athletics?

Matt: "It always comes up at some point. We don’t notice it as much when we are together, but when say a girlfriend or a boyfriend is also there, they can’t believe it always comes up."

Alana: "We are a family of statisticians. We know athletics and mum is an encyclopedia of athletics knowledge. Mum will tell you what time I ran as a nine-year-old at the Mooloolaba Primary School sports day. She's got an amazing memory." 

Ray, you coach Alana and Matt, and Denise also has an input. Is it tough sometimes to coach your own kids?

Denise: "It is pretty hard coaching your own because I’ll sometimes be spoken back to and told I might be wrong! But they are all pretty good now. Better than in days gone by." 

Alana Boyd ()

Alana has repeated the success of both her parents by winning Commonwealth gold

Alana, you were coached by your dad initially before having a few years away from being coached by him, but now you’re back. Is it better being coached by your dad now?

Alana: "It is easier this time around, although dad would say I definitely have my moments. Spending time with a different coach helped me grow up and become tougher as an athlete.

"We are all on the same page technically. It is hard to separate that coach-athlete relationship on the track and not let the father-daughter or father-son thing sneak in. Ultimately dad is always going to be dad and mum is always going to be mum."

Renaud Lavillenie famously has a pole vault runway in his back garden. Did you ever have anything similar growing up?

Matt: "No, but that’s the reason why I’m not the world record holder."

Ray: "He used to be a bit of a moon face when he was younger - more of a thrower. He used to run up the drive way and hurl a javelin into the back yard. I couldn’t understand why the sprinklers around the garden were losing water pressure. It was only later I found he was making holes in the garden and damaging the sprinkler system."

Matt Boyd ()

"I'm over, what do I do now?"

Alana and Matt, what kind of support have your mum and dad given to your careers?

Matt: "They have been there and done it at all the majors and have huge experience of what to do and how it is going to happen."

Alana: "Knowing that they want the best for us is a pretty good feeling. Having trust in a coach is very important and I'm very happy they've supported us in the whole journey."

What’s the best piece of advice they've ever given you?

Alana: "You don’t have anything to prove to anyone except yourself. If we are happy with our performance, then they are happy for us."