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A peep at history should inspire New Zealand’s team of 250 as they begin their 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games campaigns.

This is the fifth Commonwealth (or Empire) Games to be held in Australia, and New Zealanders have produced memorable performances at all of them.

Here’s a quick look at our Games highlights in Australia over the years.

1938, Sydney

7 sports, 15 countries, 464 athletes. New Zealand won 5 gold, 7 silver, 13 bronze.

The small New Zealand team returned home with an impressive medal haul. Distance runner Ces Matthews was the individual star, winning both the 3-mile and 6-mile races decisively. Matthews earned himself the sobriquet of “the Nurmi of the Empire” for his brilliant running. To be compared to Finnish running legend Paavo Nurmi was quite a compliment.

Other New Zealand gold medals were won by Pat Boot in the 880 yards, and the lawn bowls pairs and fours combinations.

1962, Perth

10 sports, 35 countries, 863 athletes. New Zealand won 10 gold, 12 silver and 10 bronze.    

It was swelteringly hot in Perth, but nevertheless several New Zealanders produced excellent performances. Peter Snell won the 880 yards-1 mile double, and Val Sloper (later Young) took gold in the shot put and discus. Murray Halberg was a dominating force in the 3-mile event.

Away from the athletics stadium, Wally Coe boxed superbly to win the welterweight gold, tiny Dot Coleman was a popular winner of the women’s foil and the team of Bob McDonald and Hugh Robson won gold in the men’s pair. James Hill, who a short time earlier had been the only New Zealand representative at the inaugural world rowing championship, outclassed his single sculls rivals in Perth, and there was a second rowing gold when the New Zealand coxed four powered home first in a high-quality final.

There was drama in the swimming when England star Anita Lonsbrough won a hotly disputed gold medal from New Zealander Vivien Haddon in the 110 yards breaststroke. The swimmers recorded the same time and many felt the New Zealander had touched first, under the water.

1982 Brisbane

11 sports, 46 countries, 1583 athletes. New Zealand won 5 gold, 8 silver and 13 bronze.

The indelible memory from Brisbane was the gold medal won by disabled archer Neroli Fairhall, after a titanic battle with Northern Irishwoman Janet Yates. Asked later by a British journalist if being able to compete while sitting in a wheelchair was an advantage, Fairhall answered tellingly: “I don’t know. I’ve never shot standing up.”

Mike O’Rourke won a deserved gold medal in the javelin and in the women’s 3000m, Anne Audain won in brilliant style, closely followed by countrywomen Lorraine Moller (3rd) and Dianne Rodger (4th).

New Zealand’s other gold medals were provided by shooter John Woolley (skeet) and cyclist Craig Adair (1km time trial).

2006, Melbourne

16 sports, 71 countries, 4071 athletes. New Zealand won 6 gold, 12 silver, 13 bronze.

Moss Burmester continued a fine New Zealand tradition when he won the 200m butterfly. In previous Games, David Gerrard, Anthony Mosse (twice) and Danyon Loader had all won that event (or its imperial equivalent) for New Zealand.

In the stadium, New Zealand athletics greats Nick Willis (1500m) and Valerie Adams (shot put) won golds. Both were to enjoy many more moments of Commonwealth Games – and Olympic – success in the following decade.

By 2006 team sports were a significant part of the Games programme and New Zealand won the sevens (only male rugby players competed in these Games) and netball golds and took silver in men’s and women’s basketball. The other New Zealand gold medallist in Melbourne was trap shooter Graeme Ede.

For the Gold Coast, 71 countries will be competing, represented by a total of approximately 6600 athletes.

Many of New Zealand’s sports superstars have won Commonwealth Games gold medals in Australia over the past 80 years. New Zealand is this year fielding its biggest ever Games team, and with a record 18 sports being contested, chances are several more of our sports heroes will add their names to the list of champions. 

Gold Coast 2018 Sydney 1938 Melbourne 2006 Perth 1962 Brisbane 1982 Commonwealth Games Pat Boot Cecil Matthews Peter Snell Valerie Young Murray Halberg Robert McDonald Hugh Robson Wallace Coe Melody Coleman James Hill Mike O'Rourke Anne Audain Lorraine Moller Dianne Rodger John Woolley Neroli Fairhall Craig Adair Nick Willis Valerie Adams Graeme Ede Moss Burmester Athletics Lawn Bowls Boxing Fencing Archery Cycling - Track Shooting Netball Rugby - Sevens Basketball Swimming
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