Old New Zealand

...Olympic Glory...

Post World War Two:

"I am thrilled beyond bewilderment. It was the greatest moment of my life and I will never have such a one again... I was very proud to see the New Zealand flag going up."

- Yvette Williams

As a result of the upheavals caused by WWII the Olympics were put on hold for a while. The first post war Olympics was 1948 in London. NZ sent seven athletes though none took medals.

In 1952 at Helsinki, Dunedin lass Yvette Williams became our first ever female Olympic gold medallist, taking out the long jump and setting an Olympic record in the process. Having won gold two years earlier at the Empire games, Williams was expected to do well though there was some drama and nervous moments leading up to her victory. Straining a knee prior to qualifying she still made it through to the next round. However, as the 19th jumper out of 24 she registered "no jumps" on her first two attempts, giving the folks listening on the radio back home some consternation, before making it through to the final six with a jump of 6.16m. Her final jump of 6.24m was just shy of the world record and secured her the gold.

Two other athletes took bronze medals at Helsinki, swimmer Jean Stewart in the 100m Backstroke and John Holland in the 400m hurdles.

Melbourne 1956

At Melbourne the New Zealand team won two gold medals. Norman Read took out the 50km walk and in the yachting Peter Mander and Jack Cropp won gold in the 12 metre Sharpie class.

Norman Read victorious in the 50km walk

Norman Read was hardly a household name in 1956 and was an unlikely champion in a sport few in New Zealand knew too much about. Returning from the Melbourne Games however, the "Pommie Kiwi" had become one of our most celebrated athletes.

Read had emigrated from the U.K. less than three years earlier, he was a late inclusion in the New Zealand team having already paid his own passage to Australia in order to prepare for the event.

Mander and Cropp, both from Christchurch's Eastern suburbs were expected to do well and did not disappoint bringing home gold in the Sharpie class starting a fine tradition of Kiwi yachties at the Olympics. After finishing 2nd in the final race they were a shade behind the Aussies on points and looked content with a silver, however a protest for obstruction by the French team was upheld, the Aussies were disqualified and the Kiwis were awarded gold. Peter Mander finished 4th in the Finn class, eight years later in Tokyo.