Story: Olympic and Commonwealth games
Page 10 – Commonwealth Games stars
While never showcasing as many superstar athletes as the Olympics, the British Empire and Commonwealth Games have produced outstanding moments in New Zealand sport. Athletics has often received the most attention at the games, but New Zealanders have consistently won medals in sports with a lower profile, such as shooting and bowls.
Olympic and Commonwealth gold medallists
Yvette Williams, Olympic long-jump gold medallist at Helsinki in 1952, was also a multiple medallist at the Commonwealth Games. She won gold in the long jump and silver in the javelin at the Auckland Commonwealth Games in 1950, and followed this up with golds for long jump, discus and shot put at Vancouver in 1954. Other New Zealand Olympic champions who have won gold at the Commonweath Games include Jack Lovelock, Murray Halberg, Peter Snell, Danyon Loader, Sarah Ulmer and Valerie Adams.
As at 2012 Valerie Young (née Sloper) had won the most Empire and Commonwealth Games gold medals of any New Zealander. At the 1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Cardiff she won a shot put gold and a discus bronze. She followed with golds for both shot put and discus at Perth, Australia, in 1962, then repeated the feat at Kingston, Jamaica, in 1966. In 1974 she emerged from retirement to win a silver medal in the shot put at Christchurch.
At the 1966 games at Kingston, Peter Welsh had a memorable victory in the 3,000-metre steeplechase. A rank outsider, he won by about 18 metres, with a time just 0.6 of a second short of the world record.
At Brisbane in 1982 Ann Audain led the field throughout the 3,000-metre race and won with a Commonwealth record. Team-mate Lorraine Moller came third.
Discus-thrower Beatrice Faumuina won her first Commonwealth Games medal, a silver, at Victoria, British Columbia (Canada), in 1994. She went on to win gold in discus at Kuala Lumpur in 1998 and again at Manchester in 2002.
The great crowd-pleaser at the 1974 Christchurch games was weightlifter Precious McKenzie, who won gold for England. McKenzie had moved to England because he was unable to represent his birth country, South Africa, being designated ‘coloured’. McKenzie went on to immigrate to New Zealand, and won a gold medal for his newest country at the 1978 Commonwealth Games in Edmonton, Alberta (Canada).
New Zealand weightlifting achieved prominence in the 1974 Christchurch games, where seven medals were won by nine lifters. The team coach, Don Oliver, had earlier achieved fame as a heavyweight lifter, winning the silver medal at Perth in 1962 and gold at Kingston in 1966.
At the 1974 games in Christchurch, New Zealand super-heavyweight weightlifter Graham May won gold. A lift in the lead-up to his winning effort provided a famous moment of sports footage when he staggered across the platform and fell forward, all but dropping the bar on Princess Anne in the front row of the audience.
At Kuala Lumpur in 1998, Darren Liddel won three gold medals, and Nigel Avery won two bronzes. Avery went on to win two golds and a silver at the Manchester games in 2002.
Some of New Zealand’s most prolific medallists have been shooters. Greg Yelavich has won a total of 12 Commonwealth Games medals – more than any other New Zealander. At Edinburgh in 1986 he won two golds and a bronze. Over the course of the next six Commonwealth Games, he won five silvers and another four bronzes. Rifle-shooter Stephen Petterson also chalked up an impressive record, winning gold and silver medals at Auckland in 1990, two golds at Victoria in 1994 and a fourth gold at Kuala Lumpur in 1998.
New Zealand has participated in lawn bowls since its inclusion in the Hamilton games of 1930. Women’s bowls has only been included in the games since 1982. From 1930 to 2010 New Zealand bowlers won 11 gold, 9 silver and 12 bronze medals, including Millie Khan’s high-profile silver medal at the 1990 games.
At the 1982 Commonwealth Games in Brisbane, Australia, New Zealand paraplegic archer Neroli Fairhall created history not only by being the first paraplegic athlete to compete at a Commonwealth Games, but by becoming the first to win a gold medal. She went on to become the first paraplegic athlete to compete in the Olympic Games.
Squash and table tennis
Squash player Leilani Rorani won two gold medals at the 2002 Commonwealth games in Manchester, England, one for the doubles, and one for the mixed doubles.
Also at Manchester, table-tennis player Li Chunli won a gold, a silver and two bronzes.
Rugby sevens and netball
Team sports have been introduced into the Commonwealth Games. By 2010 the New Zealand sevens rugby team, coached by Gordon Tietjens, had won all four Commonwealth Games tournaments since the sport’s introduction in 1998.
Netball was included in the Commonwealth Games in 1998, and has been largely a continuation of the rivalry between the two top teams in the world, New Zealand and Australia. New Zealand has played Australia in all the Commonwealth Games finals. Australia was the victor in the first two clashes, including the 2002 game, which went into double extra-time. New Zealand won gold in 2006 and again in 2010 – another double extra-time thriller.