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Joe Sweeney Wrestling, Melbourne 1956

Ronald Sweeney


Passed away

Olympic History

Melbourne 1956

Career Events

Mens Bantamweight


Ronald's Story

Ronald "Joe" Sweeney was a wrestler who competed in the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games.

Sweeney competed in the men's Greco-Roman bantamweight (57 kg) category, where he was defeated by Argentina’s Adolfo Díaz in the second match of the competition, his Olympic Games lasting just six minutes and five seconds.

But Sweeney's first love was a sport that would make it's Olympic debut almost 60 years later, a sport he would leave a legacy on for years to come.


A talented surfer and 1954 Victorian Champion, four years after his Olympic debut, Sweeney upgraded the track which led to Bells Beach, making it easily accessible to surfers all around. 

In Easter 1961, the first competition was organised – the Bells Beach Easter Rally. By 1974 the rally was included on the World Surfing circuit and it became known as “The Bells Beach Rip Curl Pro”.

In the late 1970’s, the carpenter by trade started crafting the distinctive Rip Curl trophy bell that is still awarded today.


In later life, Sweeney continued to surf, including on Christmas day up until his 81st year.

Sweeney was diagnosed with a rare auto-immune disease, from which he died at 82, two and a half years post-diagnosis, but during this time, news broke that surfing was shortlisted for the Tokyo Games – 64 years after he competed in the Olympics as a wrestler. 

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