Old New Zealand

...Olympic Glory...

Early Days

The first Olympic Games of the modern era was held in Athens in 1896, then Paris 1900 and St. Louis 1904. New Zealand didn't compete in those games as the distances and costs involved were too great. In 1908 New Zealand and Australia combined to send an "Australasian" team to the London Olympics, where NZ's Harry Kerr won a bronze medal for the 3500m walk.

At Stockholm, 1912 swimmer Malcolm Champion won NZ's first gold (as an "Australasian") in the 4 X 200m relay team, breaking the world record in the process, while Cantabrian Anthony Wilding took Bronze in the men's tennis singles. Wilding also won a total of 8 Wimbledon titles and played in winning Davis Cup teams. He was certainly in line for further honours had he not been killed in action on May 9, 1915 during the Battle of Aubers Ridge at Neuve-Chapelle, France.

First New Zealand Team

The NZ team leave Sydney on board Euripides to compete in the Antwerp Olympics, 1920.

L-R: Darcy Hadfield, Violet (Walrond) Robb, Cecil Walrond, George Davidson, Harry Wilson

We sent our first official Olympic team to the 7th Olympiad in Antwerp, Belgium in 1920. The team consisted of only four competitors, though all four performed well. Darcy Hadfield took bronze in the single sculls while Harry Wilson came 4th in the 110m hurdles and George Davidson 5th in the 100m sprint. NZ's first female Olympian, 15 year old Violet Walrond, made the 100m freestyle final but was unable to compete due to illness.

Our first Olympic track medal was the bronze won by Arthur Porritt in the 100 metre sprint at the Paris Olympics in 1924. The race was won by Englishman Harold Abrahams and was the feature of the movie 'Chariots of Fire'. Porrit served in World War 2, excelled in the field of medicine becoming the King's Surgeon from 1946-52, was knighted in 1950 and became a baronet in 1963. Porritt was Governor-General of New Zealand from 1967-72. Towards the end of his long life Porritt mused that while he had accomplished much he was best remembered for something he did way back in 1924 in less than 11 seconds!

At Amsterdam in 1928 boxer Ted Morgan won gold in the welterweight class fighting as a virtual unknown and thus became NZ's first individual Gold medal winner. In Los Angeles 4 years later Fred Thompson and Bob Stiles won a silver medal at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics, competing in the pair-oared rowing.

1936 Berlin Olympics - Jack Lovelock

New Zealand Herald:

At the 1936 Berlin Olympics seven athletes represented New Zealand. Jack Lovelock was the only one to win a medal taking out the 1500m event in world record time against a class field to produce New Zealand first ever Olympic gold medal in athletics. His time indicated that a "four minute mile" was a distinct possibility.

Olympic.org.nz - Official website of the New Zealand Olympic Committee
Olympic.org - Official website of the Olympic movement

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