John Holland (known as “Dutch” for obvious reasons) never received the recognition his brilliant exploits on the track warranted. He won a silver medal in the 440 yards hurdles at the 1950 Auckland Empire Games, and a bronze in the 4 x 440 yards relay, but there were lots of local heroes that year.
At the Helsinki Olympics two years later, Holland ran superbly to take the 400m hurdles bronze medal, but even this outstanding performance was overshadowed by the gold medal long jump effort of Yvette Williams. Holland was required to run four races in two days to win his medal.
At 1.91m in height and with the spring of a high-jumper, Holland was some runner. Besides his hurdling prowess, he was also exceptionally quick on the flat.
Holland first competed internationally at the 1948 London Olympics, finishing sixth in his 400m hurdles semi-final. He was only the second New Zealander, after Jack Lovelock, to compete at two Olympics.
Holland won 11 national hurdles titles over 110 yards, 220 yards and 440 yards and his record for the 440 yards and 400m hurdles remained intact until Roger Johnson bettered them more than a decade later.
Holland became a long-serving Auckland athletics coach and official.
He was one of a group of medallists from the 1950 Auckland Empire Games to be appointed flag-bearers for the closing ceremony at the 1990 Auckland Commonwealth Games.
Initially Holland was a teacher, working in Auckland, Hawke’s Bay, Hamilton and, after the 1952 Olympic Games, London. On his return to New Zealand, he joined Shell on the sales side and stayed with the company until his retirement 30 years later.
Holland and his wife Valerie had two sons.