runner Jack Lovelock is leading a race against 3 other runners at the Berlin Olympic Games in 1936.

C’mon Jack!

27 Jul 2016
Leading up to the Summer Olympics in Rio here are some golden sporting moments from Aotearoa’s past.

By Gareth Watkins

On the 6 August 1936, 80 years ago, Jack Lovelock won the gold medal in the 1500 metre race at the Summer Olympics in Berlin. He also set a new world record of 3 minutes 47.8 seconds. Lovelock’s friend – 1924 sprint gold-medallist Harold Abrahams – commentates in this exciting radio broadcast. The audio excerpt ends with Lovelock briefly reflecting on the win.

Hero image: Runner Jack Lovelock leads a race against three other runners at the Berlin Olympic Games in 1936.

In Berlin at the time was C.F. Greenslade, who shot this personal record of the Summer Olympics and scenes from around Berlin. Of particular interest are the street scenes (around 6 min 40 sec into video) featuring members of Hitler Youth marching in the streets, numerous Nazi Germany flags and a Zeppelin flying overhead.

A young woman wears a New Zealand athletics uniform

Long Jumper Yvette Williams in her uniform. ((Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington)

Skipping forward to 1952, here’s an audio excerpt of long jumper Yvette Williams, who won a gold medal at the Summer Olympics in Helsinki. Williams became the first New Zealand woman to win an Olympic medal when she leapt 6.24 metres – an Olympic record.  The audio excerpt ends with actuality of a ticker tape parade for Williams on her triumphant return to her hometown, Dunedin.

Yvette Williams reflects on winning a gold medal at the Summer Olympics in Helsinki, 1954.

As noted on the NZ History website Williams was named New Zealand “Sportsman of the Year” in 1950 and 1952 and was made an MBE in 1953. She was one of the first inductees into the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame in 1990 and in 2000 was voted Otago Sportsperson of the Century. Sports writer Peter Heidenstrom rates Williams as his ‘New Zealand Athlete of the Century’.

Athlete Norman Read is walking fast, surrounded by other men timing him on watches.

Norman Read walking around Trentham Military Camp, Wellington, while other men time him on their watches. (Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington)

A final golden memory is of Norman Read’s win 60 years ago, in the 50km walk race at the Summer Olympics in Melbourne in 1956.  Listen to the final moments of the race, followed by Read reflecting on how it felt to win New Zealand’s third-ever gold medal (behind Lovelock in 1936 and Williams in 1952).

Born in England, Read had emigrated to New Zealand in 1953. The self-proclaimed “Pommie-Kiwi,” Read also competed at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome and the 1966 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Kingston, where he won a bronze medal in the 20-mile road walk.

Filming parts of the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne was F. Boustridge. You can see the final moments of the walking race and Read on the podium at 9 min 28 sec into the video.