Speech by Sid Sidebottom MP to Federal Parliament 5th June 2008
Mr Vlastik Skvaril
Mr SIDEBOTTOM (Braddon) (12.38 p.m.)-
I would like to talk about a remarkable man from my electorate of Braddon-some would say unique. In fact, he describes himself as ‘crazy’, and I describe him as the veritable Forrest Gump of Braddon.The people of Tasmania and the nation generally, particularly families dealing with cancer, owe a huge debt of gratitude to Vlastik Skvaril. A Czech immigrant and a renowned cheesemaker at Lactos in Burnie – I hope members get a chance to taste that beautiful cheese – Vlastik found, at the rather astute age of 57, an unquenchable thirst to run. While I recently reached the same age
and have been doing my fair share of walking for fitness, Vlastik’s hobby has grown into an obsession which will soon see him run from one side of our continent to the other.
Like Forrest Gump, Vlastik became hooked on ultramarathons and has run at any opportunity. This includes competing in and completing the Spartathlon, a 246-kilometre run from Athens to Sparta where just one-third of runners complete the journey in the time limit. Not only did he complete the feat but he did it at a time of life when most people are contemplating taking up bridge, or lawn bowls for the more active.
He then used the drawing power of his remarkable running obsession to raise money for those less fortunate and began by making a ‘mere’ 349-kilometre trek from Burnie to Hobart, raising $ 10,000. I remember it well because I was happy to donate my nine-seater bus, which we called the ‘sidmobile’ at the time, to assist his support crew during the trek on behalf of the Make-A-Wish foundation.
The following year he bettered this with a 538-kilometre run from historic Woolnorth, in the far north-west of my electorate, across to Port Arthur in the far south-east, this time raising $ 15,000.
He also has a competitive streak, believe it or not. He broke the 48-hour world age track record by completing 278 kilometres during the first 48 hours in the Cliff Young Australian Six Day Race at Colac in 2005. He was also second overall, and the first Australian, in the Simpson Desert Race, which involved running over 380 kilometres in six days.
Vlastik obviously has plenty of time to think while he is running; He then set himself a target of running from the southernmost point of Tassie to the northern tip of mainland Australia, Cape York. I am pleased to report that he achieved this in 2O07, raising $25,000 for Camp Quality.
Some thought this would be enough but, having gone from south to north, he decided he needed to complete the set. In July of this year he will set out to become the first Australian to run from the west coast of our continent to the east coast, in what has been dubbed the bay-to-bay solo charity run across Australia.
His run will take him 5,768 kilometres from Shark Bay in Western Australia to Byron Bay in New South Wales, covering an average of 57 kilometres a day over 100 days. Through the effort, he hopes to raise $ 50,000 for CanTeen, the organisation for young people living with cancer. Vlastik says he is inspired to run by the young people he meets who live every day with cancer and still get so much out of life. With six grandchildren of his own, all very healthy, he says he
has great sympathy for people who have to deal with sickness in their own families and wants to do what he can to help others. He also says he wants to show people that you are never too old if you put your mind to it. He will celebrate his 69th birthday while on the west-to-east run.
This remarkable man is sure his body will last the journey, but he is not so confident that his 25-year-old campervan will do the same. Unfortunately, I cannot lend him the “Sidmobile” – that went with my seat – but we are there to support him. His long suffering wife, Josefa, will be behind the wheel as always. She did this during his previous adventures and will no doubt keep doing it for the duration of another huge trek. Vlastik is full of praise for his wife, who he says is the real hero. He says Josefa makes it all possible by putting up with him and his crazy ideas. The couple will also mark 47th wedding anniversary during the run.
He has already begun his fundraising and he is combining this with his training at shopping centres and other events on a treadmill to promote the bigger run. He will commence the run on 20th July and is expecting to finish it on 27th October.
Members, if Vlastik is running through your electorates, do go and say hello. It is not often that you meet a real-life Braddon Forest Gump. I respect him very much.