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Jonathan Mayne from Mornington, Victoria, is now 69 years old. He has been calling Canoe regattas for as long as he can remember, including Olympic Games and World Championships. According to the world of international “Flat-water” canoe racing, he is the best there is.
He attends New Peninsula Baptist Church, Mornington, has taught Christian Religious Education in Primary Schools for 20 years, and is current President of the Rotary Club of Mornington.
Two simultaneous events were significant in changing Jonathan Mayne’s life. The first was being a commentator for Network 10 in Australia, as a commentator at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. He secured this job, he says, by being proactive and writing to the Network explaining that he had been commentator at State and National Canoe Championships for years, and discussing the success of the Australian canoeists at the Moscow Olympics, 1980.
Jenny, his wife, claims that she was actually the one who pressured Jonathan to claim that he was the best canoe commentator in Australia. As he now relates in public speeches, “Well, Network 10 believed me !”
The second significant event coincided with those 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. Jonathan felt at the pinnacle of his career. He boarded a Greyhound bus in Hollywood and young lady sat beside him, taking hold of his Network 10 blazer and asking, “What is this jacket you have on ?”
After explaining, Jonathan inquired about her background. She replied : “My name is Esther, I’m from Toronto, Canada and I’m Assyrian.” In seeking to appear intellectual, Jonathan countered, “With a name like Esther and an Assyrian background, you must be straight out of the Old Testament.” Esther’s eyes opened wide and as she reached for her Bible she said, “It’s wonderful you read the Bible.” Oh no, he pondered, what had he done ! For the following two hours, until they reached Oxnard where Jonathon would be based, Esther spoke into his heart from the Bible.
As Jonathan Mayne got off that bus, he remembers thinking that he should be happy because he was at the peak of his career, but he felt nothing like the joy of this young woman who was bursting with self-assurance. She knew that whatever happened in her life, the Lord held her in the palm of His hand. This powerful witness demonstrated to Jonathan that if he was to take hold of this type of self-knowledge, he needed to change the way he thought and put his trust in the Lord that this woman served. He found the Gideon Bible in his hotel room and found the assurance he was seeking.
He returned home from Los Angeles repentant, washed clean, forgiven and made new and has never been the same since Esther grabbed the lapel of his jacket on that Greyhound bus.
A few years later Jonathan and Jenny Mayne visited Toronto. Although Esther had never replied to Jonathan’s letters of joy, they found her using the phone book. It transpired that she been struggling with her own faith due to a range of pressures. She confided, “Jonathan, it was your letters that supported me through that dark period of my life.”
Jonathan was struck down at the age of two with Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, a serious bone disease of the hip, and he spent a whole year in hospital and rehabilitation followed by two years in splints. As a consequence, he didn’t play sport until he was a teenager, when he took up canoeing. He is still going, aged nearly 70. Jonathan considers that his entire life has been a miracle.
In that sport he has a unique record of 37 Australian and 74 Victorian Championships, as well as countless major marathons and National Titles from 1957 to 2006.
Over many years, Jonathan and Jenny have officiated, coached and raised millions of dollars and clocked up multitudinous “wins” for both canoeing and Dragon Boat racing. Jenny, herself, was honored with an “OAM” in 2005. Three of many examples illustrate their frenetic pace. They are both former Chairmen of the Red Cross Murray Marathon, a fund raising 404km five-day canoe race ; they were officiating at the Sydney 2000 Olympics ; and they took a Navy team to the Guangzhou Dragon Boat Festival in 1997 celebrating the re-unification of Hong Kong with China. Theirs was the first Western team ever to make the final, and it inspired Jonathon to return in 1998, when this team broke a 500 year tradition by beating the Chinese at their own game.
Jonathan credits his complete recovery from surgery after a heart attack (not discovered until after the 1995 “Masters” games) partly to his extreme fitness. He says, “My canoeing has saved both of my lives ; my next life first and my present life next.”
Nothing slows them down. They have recently been in Malaysia for the Penang International Dragon Boat Festival ; Singapore for the World Dragon Boat championships for breast cancer survivors, and Sydney for the Beijing Olympic Canoe Trials.
Yet both Jonathan and Jenny Mayne claim that there’s a lot more to do yet within their twin passions of the proclamation of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, and of course “paddling.”
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